1st Edition

Lying in the Dark Room Architectures of British Maternity

By Emma Cheatle Copyright 2024
    214 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Lying in the Dark Room: Architectures of British Maternity returns to and reflects on the spatial and architectural experience of childbirth, through both a critical history of maternity spaces and a creative exploration of those we use today.

    Where conventional architectural histories objectify buildings (in parallel with the objectification of the maternal body), the book—in the mode of creative practice research—presents a creative-critical autotheory of the architecture of lying-in. It uses feminist, subjective modes of thinking that travel across disciplines, registers and arguments. The book assesses the transformation of maternity spaces—from the female bedchamber of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century marital homes, to the lying-in hospitals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries purposely built by man-midwives, to the late twentieth-century spaces of home and the modern hospital maternity wing—and the parallel shifts in maternal practices. The spaces are not treated as mute or neutral backdrops to maternal history but as a series of vital, entangled atmospheres, materials, practices and objects that are produced by, and, in turn, produce particular social and political conditions, gendered structures and experiences.

    Moving across spaces, systems, protagonists and their subjectivities, the book shows how hospital design and protocol altered ordinary birth at home and continues to shape maternal spatial experience today. As such, it will be of interest to a wide range of readers, from architectural historians, theoreticians, designers and students to medical humanities historians, to English Literature, humanities and material studies scholars, as well as those interested in creative-critical writing.

    1. The Dark and Airless Room  2. The Man-Midwife Enters  3. Building Hospitals, Building Bodies: The Hospital for Lying-In  4. Commonplaces—Species of Maternal Spaces


    Emma Cheatle is Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Sheffield, UK. She trained as an architect in London and has a PhD in Architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL (awarded RIBA President's Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis, 2014). Her research combines critical architectural history and theory with creative writing to explore architecture, art and urban space through histories and ideas of health, domesticity and gender. Emma is author of Part-Architecture: The Maison de Verre, Duchamp, Domesticity and Desire in 1930s Paris (2017), chief editor of field: journal, the UK Editor for the Bloomsbury Global Encyclopaedia of Women in Architecture 1960–2015 (2023) and co-editor with Hélène Frichot for for ‘Jennifer Bloomer: a Revisitation’, a special issue of the Journal of Architecture (2023).