FU Berlin to commemorate the 100th birthday of Simone de Beauvoir
1 February, 2021
Women writing about women writing about architecture.
At the 2008 conference held at the FU Berlin to commemorate the 100th birthday of Simone de Beauvoir, many speakers called for new frameworks to understand her prodigious and diverse oeuvre, which included philosophy, literature, biography, letters, and gender studies. Intrigued by this suggestion, over the years I have been reading de Beauvoir, and discovering her to be an astute observer of how she, a gendered being, experienced architecture and urbanism in the 20th century. She was extremely well read in contemporary French and English urban sociology; edited texts about everyday life by Henri Lefebvre for Les Temps Modernes; and made a point to visit new architecture, from the Berlin housing estates of the 1920s to Brasilia in the 1960s, when traveling around the world. Although she never proclaimed architecture and urbanism to be a central interest, her engagement with this subject is clear throughout her writings.
Une mort trés douce (A Very Easy Death) (1964) is an account of de Beauvoir’s mother’s death from cancer over the course of a month. It is a critical reflection about the power we entrust to modern institutions, like a hospital, to care for our body and psyche when we are in vulnerable situations.