by Carol McQueen
will be awarded this years Governor-Generals Gold Medal for
the most outstanding graduate student at Fall Convocation. Her Humanities
PhD thesis, entitled Wings, Gender and Architecture: Remembering Bath,
England, adopts an exciting interdisciplinary approach that is guaranteed
Not only does the thesis present a feminist inquiry into how a modern
tourist town neglects part of its architectural heritage in an attempt
to selectively showcase the past, it also includes art works that Hammond
created as a means to redress these omissions.
Bath is a tourist city known for its Georgian architecture and its
roster of male architects, said Hammond, who now teaches art history
at Carleton University. She added that the towns 21st-century economy
is very much dependent upon this 18th-century product. Yet, according
to Hammond, by creating such a seamless image of the past, the practices
of heritage and conservation with regard to architecture in Bath neglect
the 19th century, which is hugely important for womens and working-class
Hammonds thesis uncovers how women influenced Baths 19th-century
architecture. She writes about Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntington,
who built over 60 buildings in England one of which was in Bath
but is not recognized as an architect.
Its because of her gender that she is not ascribed an authorial
role, said Hammond, a very old and persistent belief is that
if there is going to be an artistic genius, its going to be a man
and not a woman. I wanted to deconstruct and critique that idea in my
Hammond also analyzes how the architecture of a 17th-century house was
gradually transformed during the 19th century in order to accommodate
its female occupants.
Taken over by a philanthropic organization in 1805, the dwelling in question
became a reform house for prostitutes. Although its official purpose was
to help these so-called fallen women, its actual goal was to intern them
in a prison.
The common view of prostitutes at this time was that they were socially
disruptive. They had the potential to destroy the family and the nation,
explained Hammond, they were considered to be a social cancer.
The reform houses inmates were held against their will, yet contributed
to the institutions operating expenses by working in its laundry
During its century of existence, the reform house became more and more
prison-like in its physical attributes. For example, its windows
were nailed shut, the façade was raised, walls were built that
enclosed the entire place, explained Hammond.
The windows were constructed at a great height after about 35 years
of the penitentiarys operation so that the prostitutes inside couldnt
look out onto the streets and no one could look in, because the idea was
that they would either be tempted back to their old ways or tempt men
in to their doom.
Although these changes in the architecture might seem to be small details,
they are not to be ignored. When interpreted in conjunction with
the kind of people who were inhabiting the building and how they were
perceived by society, said Hammond, these little changes become
very meaningful and tell a much larger story.
Not content to simply reveal that story in her thesis, Hammond also wanted
to generate awareness of the plight of these women within Bath and to
reincorporate their legacy into the citys architectural history.
Whenever I was in Bath, said Hammond, I was continuously
engaged in the practice of making alternate memories available, creating
alternate heritage practices of my own.
She organized, for example, a temporary outdoor exhibit called A Woman
Was Here that brought together the work of five overseas artists asked
to respond to the theme of the fallen woman and architecture.
She also prepared and left for the public to pick up hand-crafted envelopes
containing texts, images and art objects she had created in memory of
It was my way of making a gift to the memory of these women who
were otherwise forgotten or remembered badly, she explained.
With her thesis so well received, Hammonds goal now is to continue
to allow the artist in her to thrive within an academic context. In the
new year, shes off to Winnipeg for a 10-day residency at the St.
Norbert Art Centre, where she will create an exhibit to accompany a medical
conference being held in the city. Entitled Breathing in the Cold aims
to address how precious the breath of life is.