Kerns awarded grant examining architecture of women’s health centers

Architecture Adjunct Instructor Jolie Kerns has been awarded a $6,000 research grant from the UO Center for the Study of Women in Society for her project "Interrogating Public Space: Architecture of Women's Health Centers."

The project explores “the relationship between the legal language used to define fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy and the right to vote, and the complex ways in which these rights are negotiated through built space,” Kerns says. The project will examine the “physical, temporal, and institutional frameworks that underlie how architecture mediates our relationship to these rights.”

The specific research supported by the CSWS grant examines the concept of the right to privacy, including a set of fundamental issues concerning women’s health.

Architecture Adjunct Instructor Jolie Kerns

“I am interested in charting the architect's role in articulating and intervening in the spatial complexities of legal protections, building codes, and the idea of universal access,” Kerns says.

“On the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the legal framework to protect a woman’s right to choose has remained intact, but access to the spaces where that right is practiced, including but not limited to women’s clinics, hospitals, and surgi-centers, have become increasingly limited or denied,” Kerns notes.

Her approach consists of three parts: 1) establishing a historical genealogy for women’s health centers; 2) mapping the historical and current landscape of access to abortion and health care; and 3) analyzing historical and current building and zoning codes, materiality, and terminology in relation to the architecture of women's health centers.

“As a practicing architect trained visually to record and document through plan, section, and diagrams, the ability to visualize brings a unique lens on the current discourse,” Kerns says. “Architectural methods of analysis are critical in interrogating the spatial and temporal obstacles that stand between the granting and practice of fundamental rights. At its most general level, the research attempts to explore how architects can engage productively and respond critically in an expanded practice that operates actively within a political and social context.”

The UO Center for the Study of Women in Society maintains a number of grant programs to support the work on women and gender initiated by UO faculty, staff, and graduate students.