What Am I Reading: Steven Chilton

STIR looks into the reading habits of leading creatives – UK-based architect Steven Chilton is intrigued by gender data gap in the book - Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.

by STIRworldPublished on : Apr 19, 2021

What is the name of the book?

Steven Chilton (SC): Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men.

Who is the author?

SC: Caroline Criado Perez.

What is the genre?

SC: Non-fiction.

A look inside Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men | Steven Chilton Architects | STIRworld
A look inside Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men Image: Courtesy of Steven Chilton

 Do you judge a book by its cover?

SC: No. I believe that unlike architecture, books are a medium best explored in language. The most amazing novel can have a mundane cover or vice versa.

What made you pick it up? Can you highlight any notable aspect of the book’s design aesthetics, typography, images…  

SC: I am interested in design in its broadest sense and in how data is being made use of in the modern world through the increased use of algorithms and  AI models. I was intrigued by the suggestion that the data we are using might be biased.

  • Back cover of Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men | Steven Chilton Architects | STIRworld
    Back cover of Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men Image: Courtesy of Steven Chilton
  • Back cover of Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men | Steven Chilton Architects | STIRworld
    Alternate cover for Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men Image: Extracts from Invisible Women - Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Criado-Pereze, C., 2019. London: Penguin

Your most favourite part(s) of it?

SC: The sections that relate to building and urban design. I suppose we are so used to the idea that the queue for the women’s toilets will be huge that we don’t even stop to consider why does it have to be that way? Why can’t there be adequate provision that reflects the different needs of both sexes?

It doesn’t make sense that an architect puts in this enormous effort into designing beautiful front of house spaces for a theatre and then half the audience spend the interval in a queue for the toilet. I was also interested in the idea that men and women use urban spaces differently and that subtle differences in lighting and layout can affect the experience that women have of the space in a positive way.

 Did you gain any insight or did it help you unwind?

SC: It made me think about how the world might have been designed differently if women, rather than men, were the default. About how proportions in architecture might be different. I would probably bang my head on the ceiling quite a bit.

It’s something I want to consciously consider more in my design work. How the spaces I create will be used by all types of people. The focus of this book is on women but there are other people too whose perspective is not usually centred; children, the elderly, people with disabilities.

Steven’s personal reading den | Steven Chilton Architects | STIRworld
Steven’s personal reading den Image: Courtesy of Steven Chilton

Your favourite lines to quote from the book.

SC: "It is no accident that those who are most likely to believe in the myth of meritocracy are young, upper-class, white Americans".

 At what time of the day do you read?

SC: Usually in the evening before I go to sleep.

Hard books, e-books or audio/video books?

SC: Hard books definitely. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get distracted. Audio books are great too though, especially on a long drive.

View of the architect’s extensive collection of books | Steven Chilton Architects | STIRworld
View of the architect’s extensive collection of books Image: Courtesy of Steven Chilton

One book or book adaptation as a film that you always want to go back to.

SC: The Lord of the Rings. It was read to me as a child and has stayed with me. The plot itself is in essence quite a simple quest involving an epic struggle between good and evil. But Tolkien’s in-depth knowledge of mythology leads to a creation of a believable, many layered world. It isn’t just an escapist fantasy, however. The sadness and horror Tolkien experienced in WWI permeate the atmosphere of the novel and many moral themes such as temptation and redemption are explored. A true 20th century masterpiece. I am not sure Caroline Criado Perez would be impressed by the ratio of male to female characters, however.

Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.

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