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Cover book for "Unplanned Visitors" featuring a man in bed
May 2020
McGill-Queen's University Press

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Unplanned Visitors

Queering the Ethics and Aesthetics of Domestic Space
Olivier Vallerand

Sexuality and gender have long been influential in understanding the construction of domestic space, its meanings, often revealing a binary division of private and public, female and male. By reconstructing the foundation of queer critiques of space and by analyzing the representation of domesticity in contemporary art and architecture, "Unplanned Visitors" shows the blurring of private and public that can occur in any domestic space and explores the potential of queer theory for understanding, and designing, the built environment.

Olivier Vallerand investigates how queer critiques, building on pioneering feminist work, question the relation between identity and architecture and highlight normative constructs underlying domestic spaces. He draws out a genealogy of queer space in theoretical discourse in architecture, studying projects by Mark Robbins, Joel Sanders, J Mayer H, Elmgreen & Dragset, Andrés Jaque and MYCKET, among others. These works blur the traditional borders between architecture and art to emphasize the tensions between private and public and their impact on assumptions about domestic space and family structure. The challenges in moving from experimental installations to built environments suggest how designers must acknowledge and respond to the social contexts that shape architecture, rethinking how domestic spaces can be designed to allow everyone to better manage the expression of their self-identification through their living environments.

"Unplanned Visitors" poses a challenge to traditional architectural theory and history, but also suggests a renewed and more inclusive ethics whereby designers explicitly address social and political power structures. 


Assistant Professor Olivier Vallerand holds a doctorate in architecture from McGill University. He has taught at Université Laval, Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of California, Berkeley, where he pursued postdoctoral research. An architect, he previously worked for firms in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Quebec, and currently keeps an installation-based practice.

Praise for this book

"Unplanned Visitors revives a movement in architectural studies with rich discussion of theory and spatial analyses of a well-curated group of art exhibitions and performances. Vallerand extends the earlier work of feminist thinkers in seeking to break down the separate-spheres ideology and structural binaries such as inside/outside, public/private, and male/female to recognize a fluidity of space and identity — both an interesting read and valuable piece of scholarship."

Brent Carnell
The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London