The Vertical Order of the City: A Gender Perspective on the Urban Form

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Silvia Binda Heiserová


Throughout the twentieth century, the vertical orientation has become a predominant
spatial arrangement of western metropolises. Male fantasies of verticality have reached their
extremes not only in form of urban utopias but also in the built urban environment where the
verticality is glorified as the exponent of economic and technological progress. In this paper
a critical gender perspective on the symbolic associations with verticality is proposed, surveying
the links between vertical architecture, power and masculinity. The urban space is examined
from a feminist viewpoint, arguing that verticality equals masculinity, which is evidenced by a
multidisciplinary investigation of the vertical semiotics. Before entering into the analysis of
manifestations and consequences of vertical architecture, the relevance of associations between
the vertical and the masculine is detailed, with the intention to demonstrate through various
examples from architecture and art, that the vertical is traditionally and inseparably associated
with the masculine. The skyscraper, being the vertical architectural form par excellence,
is considered from a historical perspective as a symbol of masculine power and aggressive
capitalism. Finally, the phenomenon of privileged views accessed via vertical architecture
is identified as integrally related to the image of masculinity, virility and social status.

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How to Cite
Heiserová, S. B. (2021). The Vertical Order of the City: A Gender Perspective on the Urban Form. Humanities Bulletin, 4(1), 103–116. Retrieved from