Thesis Defence: Natalia Semenova

Friday, January 12, 2018 2:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

Natalia thesis image

Of the thesis entitled: POWER, ARCHITECTURE, TRANSITION: Creating a Safe Space for Victims of Domestic Violence


This thesis examines issues of poverty and homelessness in Toronto, specifically focusing on the needs of women and children who are the most vulnerable group and are homeless as a result of being victims of domestic violence. The thesis reflects on the power of architecture, relating to the limits of a physical environment created by an institution and how this effects rehabilitation and empowerment for shelter residents. This is a polemical thesis which creatively engages in the discussion of how informed design paired with an enlightened service model can create a positive implication on residents’ recovery.

The traditional and institutional notion of the shelter, with its objective of correction, is not capable of extending beyond offering accommodation, to address the questions of fundamental concerns to our society. Violence against women is a crime that exists in secrecy. Survivors of domestic violence remain invisible, without a visible place to speak, without a place to tell their own stories.Dialog is transformative. Telling invokes transformation.[i] In this context, a shelter can become a space of resistance.

This thesis proposes a model for designing a shelter that is based on transformation, rather than adaptation. A model that openly instills invention and dialog. A model that can question the relationship between personal and public. The aim of this project is to allow for architectural affordance created through affect and syntax. By looking at program possibilities, such as thresholds and gradients of privacy, this thesis proposes an approach that mediates the relationships between shelter residents, their community, and the surrounding neighborhood.

[i] Silverman, Tami, and Chris Taylor. “Shelter: A Place of the Telling a Chimerical Cookbook.” Shelter, Women, and Development: First and Third World Perspectives. By Hemalata C. Dandekar. N.p.: George Wahr, 1996. 367.

The examining committee is as follows:


Rick Andrighetti, University of Waterloo

Committee Members:

Janna Levitt, University of Waterloo

Dereck Revington, University of Waterloo

External Reader:

Chloe Town

The committee has been approved as authorized by the Graduate Studies Committee.

The Defence Examination will take place:  

Friday, January 12, 2018                
2:00 PM               
ARC 2003

A copy of the thesis is available for perusal in ARC 2106A.