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How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative

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Join a curator-led tour of The Barbican’s ground floor installation How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative

Using the previously unseen archive of the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative as a jumping-off point, How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative explores a series of important social questions: who are our buildings and shared spaces designed for? Who is excluded from our designed environment, and what effect does this have on the communities who live there?


Co-curated by Matrix founding member Jos Boys, How We Live Now introduces archival and contemporary approaches to design that aim to empower voices and groups often excluded in the design of buildings, including Black and Asian women’s organisations, community and childcare groups and lesbian and gay housing co-operatives, to propose and explore more inclusive ways of designing, building and occupying spaces. With the COVID-19 pandemic only sharpening the existing inequalities within our cities and homes, such as a lack of access to safe, affordable housing, community facilities and green spaces, the question Matrix began to explore of how we can reimagine these spaces in more equitable ways, feels increasingly urgent.

BIID members plus a guest are invited to join Assistant Curator (Architecture and Design) and Co-curator of How We Live Now, Jon Astbury, to learn more about the group and their work in an immersive tour of the installation.


An insight into Matrix, a women’s co-operative with a non-hierarchical structure, active in London from 1981-1994, including its origins in radical architectural and community action movements, and the co-operatives focus on the inclusivity of design, particularly in relation to people of colour, disabled, queer, as well as trans and non-binary people.

Jos Boys, Matrix founding member, said: ‘At the core of the work by Matrix was a recognition that building and urban design often fail to consider the richness of our multiple ways of being in the world, or the various ways in which societies have devalued certain groups across different places and times. A persisting reliance on ‘standards’, ‘universals’ and ‘norms’ that often continue today, reinforce stereotypes about what certain people do and how they should behave – that a ‘woman’s place should be in the home’, for instance, or that it is possible to ‘be in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

Image caption: Matrix member Anne De Graft-Johnson shown standing on scaffolding; photo taken for front cover of Matrix booklet A Job Designing Buildings (1986). Photography by Brenda Price/Photofusion 

Image caption: Architects Mary-Lou Ascott and Matrix co-founder Susan Francis set out a floor plate for the self-build conversion of a warehouse into a shared house in Hackney, London. Source: Christine Wall


This event is for BIID Registered Interior Designers, Associate and Provisional Associate members, employees of BIID Registered Interior Design Practices and BIID Student members. Members are permitted to bring 1 guest each – please book your guest on the same ticket as non-member tickets will be cancelled. If you do wish to bring a guest, please book 2 tickets. Spaces are extremely limited. 

In-person events and COVID-19

This event will be occurring after July 19th, but we would like to take this chance to assure guests that safety precautions are currently in place at The Barbican in accordance with current government guidelines. Guests will be updated on these guidelines closer to the event as regulations change.

Additional Information

About the venue:

Please meet your BIID staff member at the start of the exhibition at 6:20pm to register your attendance. Guests are invited to enjoy the cafes, shops and terraces at the Barbican both before and after the tour. 

If this event is fully booked, please join the waiting list. If you are no longer able to attend, please inform the office so that we can give your spot to someone else. 

If you have any queries, please email the office at or call 020 7628 0255.

By purchasing a ticket to this event, you are agreeing to the BIID event terms and conditions

Main event image caption:  Members of Matrix in the 1990s. Back row (left to right): Mo Hildenbrand, Sheelagh McManus, Raechel Ferguson. Front row (left to right): Janie Grote, Annie-Louise Phiri, Julia Dwyer. Photography by Jenny Burgen


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