A handy guide to gender roles in European architectural standards.

Enciclopaedia Pratica per Progettare e CostruireI try to keep my private and work life separate, lest I misrepresent myself professionally (shocker, I know). But this just had to be shared.

My husband and I work in the architecture and construction industry here in bella Italia.  Allow me to introduce you to ‘The Bible’ – Neufert’s ‘Enciclopaedia Pratica per Progettare e Costruire’ (translation: ‘Practical Encyclopaedia for Design and Construction’). This baby answers all questions about sizing and dimensioning, according to my husband.

I soon found out that, indeed, it does answer all questions…

about architecture… and about life…

let’s take a look, shall we?

For example, this first image shows us how the diligent housewife wakes up the morning, darns her best work dress and apron, and sets out to get that pesky dust out of the carpets. Please allow 1.4 meters for the action of swinging the broom against the rug. Please provide a horizontal bar 1.9 meters high, over which she can hang said rug. Otherwise I just don’t know how she will manage.


This next image kindly reminds us that it can be tricky to reach the dust that collects on the tops of furniture. Especially because our height impairs us womenfolk. Please limit furniture heights to 1.5 meters for this reason. If absolutely necessary, 2 meters is permissible… but only if there is a chair conveniently located nearby for the woman to augment her own height.

IMG_9213_2_3Now, in case you were worried about the comfort and location of Italian ladies’ favorite pastime – ironing – we have a solution. With a fold-out ironing board situated at 90 centimeters from the ground, most average-height women will find the working surface favorable for ironing comfortably.


Alternatively, for those women who find themselves faint on their feet for longer periods, the following image specifies that  – should a woman wish to sit during the ironing process – a space of 1 meter should be granted.


Lastly, it is essential that waste bins are sized appropriately so as not to discomfort a woman while she is taking out the trash… because, remember, no job is too small for a good woman to take care of. Please provide bins of about 93 centimeters (give or take) in height, and 50 centimeters in diameter. In this manner, the woman will have less likelihood of spoiling her dress and apron in the process of ejecting the rubbish.


Now, you may be asking yourself… where are the men through all of these finely tuned standards? Certainly they too have needs for prescribed measurements to increase their comfort level.

Ah! Here they are… in the bath tub, illustrating various options for sizes. The label, however, warns us that ‘the shorter the bath tub, the greater the consumption of water’. So the man on the far right (who looks much more comfortable anyways) is in a more idyllic situation.


As we continue, we find our man again dutifully testing measurements in the bath tub. This time, it is apparently acceptable to have company in the bath tub – a friend perhaps. Which leads us to the measurements on the right…


In this somewhat graphic depiction of our man, he is illustrating for us the desirable space needed to properly dry off with a towel after the arduous task of bathing with a friend. Please note that in all of these images, the man is not to be inhibited by the constraints of clothing. Whereas it would be entirely inappropriate, not to mention dangerous, for the woman to engage in her activities sans apron.


Now let’s just check back with our woman to see how her chores are going. While, as mentioned in the previous image, the man will need 1.05 meters to dry off comfortably, the woman only needs 55 centimeters to clean the same bath tub.

If she completes this task appropriately and on time, the man who has been standing over her, watching, then salutes her to indicate that the prescribed measurements were, indeed, satisfactory.


Where would we be without standards?

Note: my husband would like to point out that, although the text has been translated to Italian, this is a German publication. No judgements… just letting you know.

8 thoughts on “A handy guide to gender roles in European architectural standards.

  1. Could it be that they took the smallest adult standard (a woman – as biology goes) for situations in which one has to “reach” something and a standard man where a person had to “fit” into a space? Just so it works for everyone… It seems to me that there is worse sexism than this going on in the world!

    • oh Andy, Andy, Andy… so much to say… so little time. Did you SEE the last image? Anyway… RELAX. It’s supposed to be funny. I wasn’t aware I was only allowed to report on sexism worse than this (of which, yes, there is plenty).

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