Women & Architecture by Claire Cottrell

— From Luigi Ghiri and the indefinable by Germano Celant in It’s beautiful here, isn’t it “For Ghirri as for Andre Breton, the world is a body whose lines are reshaped by the gaze.”


In 1936 Franco Albini created Room For A Man — an allegorical space for the daily activities of the modern man, complete with wardrobe, weights, a glass shower, four chairs and a desk, a bed, but no kitchen. Cold materials such as glass, linoleum, tubular steel and foam rubber, suggest the space was created for those more concerned with speed and convenience than with domestic ease.

What then, one may ask, would a room purpose-built for a woman look like? How would this space need to function? Which materials would be used to build such environment?

Los Angeles-based artist Claire Cottrell has been studying the relationship between women and architecture through a series of photographic works. Each quietly considers the relationship between women and their surroundings, and, over time, that the two have the ability to become indistinguishable. To borrow a quote from Claire’s recent interview on Apiece Apart, “You live in a place long enough and your identity becomes entwined with it. I can’t explain myself without talking about Los Angeles.”

For this series of work, Claire has shared some insight to each location:

The ‘Woman’ photos (3+4) were shot at Stella Adler’s old home in Beachwood Canyon. In a space that Marlon Brando, among others, had frequented. The ‘Woman’ photos (7+8+10+14) were shot at the apartment of Elliot Gould’s character in Altman’s The Long Goodbye in the Hollywood Hills. 

The other photos are an assortment of architecture: the second image is from Arcosanti, the few further down (the Moorish tower + car + white with slit window and pink foliage) are from an apt designed by the same architect who did the Long Goodbye house. The top image (baby blue bird of paradise) is by a building I love in Beachwood Canyon.

Beyond structure and functionality, I love that each of these facts adds yet another layer to the fundamentals of a home, or building, or place. Claire reminds us that spaces, whether mathematically precise or unbound, are saturated in cultural milestones and memories — memories that are not officially our own but are wildly vivid and continuously adjusted.