Monash University

Monash University

Melbourne, AU


Australian designers’ spotlight safer city design for women at Venice Architecture Biennale

By Lisa Pitch
Apr 15, '18 9:08 PM EST
Monash XYX Lab 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale exhibit - Just so f---ing beautiful - render
Monash XYX Lab 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale exhibit - Just so f---ing beautiful - render

XYX Lab, a research team based at Monash University’s faculty of Art Design and Architecture (MADA) in Australia has been selected to exhibit at the world's most prestigious architecture and design event - the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, May 26 to November 25, 2018.

XYX Director Dr Nicole Kalms said as real as the buildings, streets, traffic and people, that women’s’ experiences of sexual harassment materialises in cities. 

“Architects and designers are increasingly seeking to understand how gender-sensitive design can combat the spatial inequities faced by women and girls of all demographics, races and socio-economic groups,” Dr Kalms said. 

XYX Lab has been selected by the European Cultural Centre to show at its exclusive Biennale sites. The XYX Lab’s installation, titled “Just So F***ing Beautiful”, features in the TIME – SPACE -  EXISTENCE exhibition at Venice’s Palazzo Mora - one of the major satellite shows held across the city.

The installation - a hypertext - literally ripples like skin might crawl. It tells a story of female harassment in a public space; an experience shared by over three-quarters of women across the world.  “Just so f***ing beautiful” is a whisper—a quiet, but frightening threat—that irreversibly made one young woman reassess her engagement with the city. It is a phrase from one of 600 comments about Melbourne city spaces.  

The unique and provocative installation features large-scale letters in a unique font, specially designed to reflect the architraves and rich architectural details of the Palazzo Mora. Visitors move past the hypertext - suspended from the wall – as text is projected onto the installation and its surrounds.

Dr Kalms said, “Just so f***ing beautiful” makes the whisper tangible. It solidifies the predatory taunt into a tangible manifestation of a felt experience; and makes real the impact of a city’s capacity for exclusion.”

By exploring these stories, XYX Lab is calling on architects, designers and communities to tackle sexual harassment via gender-sensitive approaches to place-making.

The installation extends the XYX Lab’s ongoing global work with CrowdSpot and Plan International which looks at safe and unsafe areas of cities to address the design mechanisms that lead to social exclusion. Dr Kalms and exhibition co-collaborator, Monash University Designer Dr Gene Bawden, say the installation complements the social activism in the #metoo and #timesup movements. 

Dr Kalms said, “Architecture and design directly impact how people experience cities and public spaces. These experiences can be inspiring and uplifting, or isolating and terrifying.  As this work shows, the impact of the built environment and our experiences stay with us long after we have left.

“Architects, designers, town planners and the community more broadly have the ability – and responsibility - to ensure our cities and spaces consider the perspectives and safety of all users.

“When addressing complex problems, such as unequal gendered experiences of city spaces, XYX Lab brings together diverse and underrepresented voices. Working with architects, designers, government officials, members of the law enforcement, social services and aligned researchers, we can co-create a shared vision of urban spaces where gender equity can thrive.”

So f***ing beautiful’ highlights new ways of thinking about design. It responds to the Biennale Curators’ call to ‘encourage… new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the well-being and dignity of each citizen on the planet.’

Exhibition "Just so f***ing beautiful' Designers: Dr Nicole Kalms + Dr Gene Bawden Technical Advisor and Project Manager: Natalie Alima Production and Fabrication: Special Patterns Finisher: Flock Finishers PTY Ltd

About XYX Lab

Focusing on women and girls and LGBTIQ communities, the XYX Lab’s team of researchers and designers work collaboratively with architects, urban designers, policy makers and the broader community to address design factors that make cities exclusionary and threatening according to gender. The invitation recognises the increasing global interest in this area and demand for the Lab’s services.

For Images of XYX Lab's Venice Biennale exhibition, Dr Nicole Kalms and Dr Gene Bawden:

For more information on Dr Nicole Kalms: and Dr Gene Bawden:

More information on the European Cultural Centre’s TIME – SPACE - EXISTENCE exhibition at Venice’s Palazzo Mora, May 26 to November 25, 2018 available here:

About MADA

Monash University's faculty of Art, Design and Architecture is an open, connected community, seeking to change the world through creative practice and collaboration. For more information on MADA:


Media enquiries: for more information or to interview Dr Nicole Kalms, please contact: Lisa Knott at           E: or M: 0439 335 058