Gender and Cities

A gender sensitivity urban design process considers the political, cultural and economic factors that produce gender-based exclusion and discrimination in our cities.

We’re talking with Associate Professor Nicole Kalms from the Department of Design at Monash University. Nicole is the founding Director of the XYX Lab, a research group looking at the intersection of Space, Gender and Communication.

XYX Lab is a team of design researchers exploring gender-sensitive design practices and theory. Their work operates at the intersection of gender, identity, urban space and advocacy. They bring together planners, policy makers, local government and stakeholders to make tangible the experiences of underrepresented communities in urban space and planning.

XYX Lab is grounded in feminist and queer theory and activated through real-world projects. Equal parts qualitative and quantitative research, they regularly work to collect and analyse data and experiences in order to generate deeper understanding and support our design projects. Their approach is inclusive of all gender and sexual identities.

Nicole and her XYX lab team are thinking about how we collect and report urban data in new ways. Through their Free to Be urban design thinking workshops, they allow women from all walks of life to redesign the city in ways that will have real world impacts for women and girls. Nicole and her team are using digital technologies and citizen research methods to collect and analyse their data.

We talk to Nicole about the hyper-sexualisation of our cities. The idea that the hyper-sexualised images that are put on display in our cities effect how women and men act in and experience the city. Nicole suggest we need to gender mainstream our cities, and that gender sensitivity urban design will change our cities for the better.


Nicole Kalms is an Associate Professor in the Department of Design and founding director of the XYX Lab which leads national research in Space, Gender and Communication. In this role, Kalms is leading two significant research projects Urban Exposure: Interactively Mapping the Systems of Sexual Violence in Cites and Women and Girls Only: Understanding the Spaces of Sexual Harassment in Public Transport. These projects are in partnerships with state, national and international stakeholders.

Nicole has a PhD in Architecture from Monash University. She obtained her Bachelor Degree in Architecture from RMIT and practiced architecture for several years before undertaking a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture (RMIT). Nicole is currently a full time member of Monash University’s Faculty Art, Design and Architecture where she is focused on cross-disciplinary teaching and research.

Associate Professor Kalms’ recent contributions include: the monograph Hypersexual City: The Provocation of Soft-Core Urbanism (Routledge 2017); Urban exposure: Feminist crowd-mapping and the new urban imaginary in the Routledge Companion to Urban Imaginaries (Routledge 2018), ‘I’m Here’: Identity and Obscurity in Locative Safety Technology for Women in Neo-Liberal Cities’ (2017) in the edited book series Critiques, ‘Hypersexual Occupations’ (2015) in the edited book Occupation: Ruin, Repudiation and Revolution and ‘Hypersexual Transgressions’ (2014) published in the Architectural Humanities Research Association’s journal Architecture and Culture.

Kalms regularly writes for a diverse non-academic audience, and is frequently invited to speak to the public about sexuality and urban space at major national and international cultural institutions.


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