guy space

twentieth century- sitting around watching the game:

nineteenth century- sitting around watching (the) game:

The above image is architect Frank Furness’ smoking room in Philadelphia, circa 1883

Only in the last few years of my practice has the discussion arisen of creating a specifically “guy space” within a house project.  Prior to that I certainly designed plenty of ‘studies’  and ‘home offices’ that were thinly-veiled euphemisms for this kind of male-dominated and controlled space within what can often be a more traditionally female milieu of ‘domesticated’ space.  More recently, this discussion has come out of the closet and I have been asked to make a space that is explicitly for the guys to hang out in or a solitary sanctuary.

I feel strongly that every one that lives in a house needs to have a place that they can call their own.  For kids this is clearly their bedroom, or if shared, a corner or niche within the joint bedroom that is clearly delineated as their own space.  For adults, this is much trickier and the design discussion that these spaces engender are often the most difficult and contentious meetings with homeowners.  Couples are sometimes very quick to start claiming spaces as their own and at least partially excluding the aesthetic and functional opinions of the spouse, if not slyly indicating an actual physical exclusion from the space is desired.

There is much scholarship and writing on the creation and history of such gendered spaces.  I have read some of it but it often feels very far away from the center ring of this occasional circus of conflicts with the working architect acting as ring master.

To the notion of “guy space”, let me only add that as a programmatic element explicitly desired by clients, there has been a definite increase in my practice in the last few years.  So, whether this space is the solitary sanctum sanctorum of the Fortress of Solitude:

or a “man cave” or  just a small corner carved out of a garage for the execution of projects:

or the massive audio/video control center – bridge of starship Enterprise –  in the images above, I think that there will an increase in the demand for, and interest in these spaces.  It will be interesting to see if this generates an equal desire for explicitly “female” spaces.   This dialogue is wonderfully and infinitely complex and all the more so for so many of my same-sex couple clients.  I try to avoid the tired cliches of gender-defined spaces and keep everyone focused on their individual needs for their own specific spatial/psychological spaces.

I admit a certain ambivalence to the whole notion of exclusivity with which this is often approached, but I welcome the directness of clients to clearly express these desires, even if they are a little embarrassed by the notion.


4 thoughts on “guy space

  1. I agree with Sarah Susanka’s concept of “a space of one’s own.” If has an overt gender bent, so be it — so long as its presence within the house doesn’t render it a joke. A sense of humor is ok, but don’t let your clients get laughed-at!

  2. Is that my Don G? We certainly joke about his office as the man cave and outdoor cooking area as the man kitchen, and they are mostly his domains, but I never saw such an overt gender bent–and I have my own space, as well, which seems to be the point. Why isn’t the whole house equally embraced by/comfortable for all?

  3. I certainly agree. As I said, it is each person’s individual needs that are really more interesting, not some generic stereotyping of gendered spaces. What has changed is that so many more people are explicitly using the terms “man cave” and “guy space”.

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