Architecture of care in the urban public space: A philosophical inquiry in ‘Ethics of care’ to inform the nature of the urban public space

Newalkar, Rucha Vivek
Major Professor
Andrea Wheeler
Committee Member
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Within any urban setting, the public space has always reflected the city’s social, economic, cultural, and environmental well-being. In the broader discussion of urban environmental sustainability, however, there has been a pronounced dualism and an implicit hierarchy of value when looking at the city-ecology paradigm. This corresponds to the political-social, human- nature and especially subject-object divides within the perspectives on the sustainability of urban public spaces. I associate this divide and the subsequent domination of pedagogies that lack feminist approaches in analyzing qualitative aspects like experience, well-being, and equity. Do public spaces belong to women and nature? Do women belong to public spaces? If they really do, can it change the nature of the public space?

This dissertation thus adopts a critical eco-feminist perspective, to expand its concepts in relation to urban public spaces to build a holistic definition of urban environmental sustainability. I seek a philosophical inquiry into the ethics of care to shape my argument on the spatial nature of the public space. The methodology adopted uses contemporary feminist philosophy and environmental ethics to critically investigate various aspects that determine the relationship of women and the urban public space. In this philosophical dissertation, firstly, I investigate the public spaces through the spatiotemporal and gendered lens by considering scholarly literature on the nature of the urban public space. Secondly, I draw theoretical threads from most importantly, Luce Irigaray’s perspectives on an ethic of sexuate difference and feminine subjectivity to investigate the feminine aspects of the use of public space.

Finally, I develop the concept of the ethic of care, differently, for better addressing the issue of gender equity, environmental sustainability to impact women’s political, emotional and relational well-being within the public space. In conclusion, this dissertation advocates ‘care’ as a central value, to shape the spatial nature of the urban public space and an approach to achieve socio-ecological sustainability and well-being in urban public spaces.