In the gender-segregated cultures of the Middle East, cultural values, beliefs and gender differences have particular influences on the built environment perhaps more significantly than in other parts of the world. This presentation will explore the role personal space and gender has on people in a public hospital in Kuwait as they occupy the waiting room. The goal is to demonstrate the complexity of choosing a place to sit in a culture consumed by duality, and the design alternatives that could help make this process less invasive in an already stressful situation for the users.
Norma I. Figueroa obtained a Bachelor in Science in Environmental Design at the School of Architecture, University of Puerto Rico and a Masters in Architecture at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. After several years as a practicing architect and ceramic artist in the Middle East, Norma returned to teach at the University of Puerto Rico where she developed service-learning projects for the Community Design Studio, while simultaneously completing a PhD in History. It is here that Norma’s work as architect becomes heavily influenced by research. Her dissertation focused on pioneering female architects in Puerto Rico and their struggles to establish a practice in a male dominated society. Norma has since taught at Gulf University, Kuwait University, and more recently, at the School of Architecture, University of Texas at Arlington, where she taught interior design studios, and research methodologies. Her more recent work relates to culture, healthcare environments and the well being of patients, specifically how gender norms affect the way people inhabit hospital waiting rooms in Kuwait. Norma’s emphasis on research in architecture is an example on how thorough observation and study is of outmost importance when designing with specificity for both user and culture.