XYX Lab, a research team based at Monash University’s faculty of Art Design and Architecture (MADA), has been selected to exhibit at the world's most prestigious architecture and design event - the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. The team has created a provocative installation to create awareness about gender-biased design and how it contributes to the sexual harrassment of women in cities.

According to XYX director Dr Nicole Kalms, as real as the buildings, streets, traffic and people, women's experiences of sexual harrassment materialises in cities. 

“Architects and designers are increasingly seeking to understand how gender-sensitive design can combat the spatial inequities faced by women and girls of all demographics, races and socio-economic groups,” says Kalms. 

Inspired by the experience of one Melbourne woman, the XYX Lab’s installation, titled “Just so f***ing beautiful”, features in the TIME – SPACE -  EXISTENCE exhibition at Venice’s Palazzo Mora. Curated by the European Cultural Centre, it is one of the major satellite shows held across the city. 

The unique and provocative installation features large-scale letters in a unique font, specially designed to reflect the architraves and rich architectural details of the Palazzo Mora. Visitors move past the hypertext - suspended from the wall – as text is projected onto the installation and its surrounds.

“Just so f***ing beautiful” makes the whisper tangible. It solidifies the predatory taunt into a tangible felt experience; and makes real the impact of a city’s capacity for exclusion," says Kalms. 

By exploring these stories, XYX Lab is calling on architects, designers and communities to tackle sexual harassment via gender-sensitive approaches to place-making.

The installation extends the XYX Lab’s ongoing global work with CrowdSpot and Plan International which looks at safe and unsafe areas of cities to address the design mechanisms that lead to social exclusion. Dr Kalms and exhibition co-collaborator, Monash University Designer Dr Gene Bawden, say the installation complements the social activism in the #metoo and #timesup movements. 

“Architecture and design directly impact how people experience cities and public spaces," says Kalms.

"These experiences can be inspiring and uplifting, or isolating and terrifying.  As this work shows, the impact of the built environment and our experiences stay with us long after we have left.

 “Architects, designers, town planners and the community more broadly have the ability – and responsibility - to ensure our cities and spaces consider the perspectives and safety of all users.

“When addressing complex problems, such as unequal gendered experiences of city spaces, XYX Lab brings together diverse and underrepresented voices. Working with architects, designers, government officials, members of the law enforcement, social services and aligned researchers, we can co-create a shared vision of urban spaces where gender equity can thrive.”

The 2018 Venice Biennale will run from May 26 to November 25.