Dezeen Magazine

Not Yet Defined by Oliver Rene Alunović

Seven student projects that explore gender and sexuality

Dezeen School Shows: we've picked seven student projects featured on Dezeen School Shows that reflect people's lived experience, focusing on their gender and sexuality.

Throughout their university projects, these undergraduate and postgraduate students have chosen to highlight the needs and outlooks of people in relation to their sexual preferences and gender identities.

Projects in this roundup include a harness designed to reinstate femininity post-mastectomy, a collection of ceramics that celebrate women's femininity in Mexican culture and the reinstating of an LGBTQ+ space in a former queer club venue in New York.

These projects come from students enrolled on jewellery design, product design, architecture, industrial design and fashion design courses at international institutions including INDA, Lucerne School of Art and Design, University of Dundee, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Centro de Diseño y Comunicación, University at Buffalo and University of Art and Design Linz.

Women hearing pink harness over chest

Dessus et Dessous by Megan Kelso

During her time studying jewellery design at Lucerne School of Art and Design, Megan Kelso created a collection of harnesses for people who have undergone mastectomies in order to fight breast cancer.

The designs aim to reinstate confidence in the wearer's body image in the absence of one or both breasts.

"From one day to the next, women can be confronted with the loss of an identity-defining body part, triggering profound questions about their own fragility and femininity," said Kelso. "Beautiful over- and undergarments can reinforce body positivity."

"As a trained dressmaker I understand the female body and as a jewellery maker, I am aware of the power of bodily adornments. Here, I've created a set of designs that are suitable for both everyday and occasionwear, facilitating a creative and self-assured approach towards the wearer's own body image."

Student: Megan Kelso
School: Lucerne School of Art and Design
Course: BA XS Jewellery

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Collage of images showing a chest with a necklace

Boys Will Be Boys by Greg Sutherland

Greg Sutherland's project during his studies at the University of Dundee named Boys Will Be Boys manifests as a necklace made up of a series of discs displaying photographs of nipples.

Sutherland drew on his own lived experience as a gay man for the piece, which also draws on themes of masculinity, the internet and societal obsession with body image among other influences.

"Photography of the body provides substantial inspiration for my work, and I use it directly as a medium for creating jewellery," said Sutherland. "I view my pieces as possessing cyclical qualities, designing from the body and for the body."

"I also take inspiration from pop culture, traditional symbolism and the architecture of my hometown, which I use as a metaphor to express feelings of suppression, frustration and constriction."

Student: Greg Sutherland
School: University of Dundee
Course: BDes Jewellery and Metal Design

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Photograph of person wearing garment that billows out behind them

Shedding Skin by Anna Martić, Stefan Schönauer and Michalina Zadykowicz

Design Investigations students at University of Applied Arts Vienna, Anna Martić, Stefan Schönauer and Michalina Zadykowicz designed a wearable object that aims to help alleviate the struggles of queer people when coming to terms with their own bodies and identities.

The garment has a nude-coloured under layer with pastel-coloured layers that move dynamically when the wearer is in motion.

"This handcrafted, wearable object shows the transition of the constricted body to one that is free and nonconforming," said Martić, Schönauer and Zadykowicz.

"An internal metamorphosis that is displayed on the outside by a garment transforms itself from a constrictive, drab shell into a flowing gown."

Students: Anna Martić, Stefan Schönauer and Michalina Zadykowicz
School: University of Applied Arts Vienna
Course: Design Investigations

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Cuerpa by Adelaida Cortés

Adelaida Cortés created a series of ceramic vessels during her studies at Centro de Diseño y Comunicación, which comments on the bodily autonomy of Mexican women.

The collection named Cuerpa consists of textural bowls and vases glazed in a range of pastels and muted colours.

"Spanish is a language that has grammatical gender – it means that inanimate objects have a pronoun or article," said Cortés. "We are used to assuming that every noun that ends in the letter 'O' is a male gender, even when talking about nouns that can be neutral or both."

"When we mention 'Cuerpo' it means the human body, and we think about a masculine subject. I made 'Cuerpa' to materialise and give power and identity to the stories of the Mexican women's bodies."

Student: Adelaida Cortés
School: Centro de Diseño y Comunicación
Course: BA Industrial Design

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Render of floorplans

Lost Histories by Christopher Sweeney

During his time at University at Buffalo studying architecture, Christopher Sweeney chose to focus on a building in Buffalo, New York, that housed the queer venue named Swan Club in the early 1980s.

Now a high end restaurant, the project sees the building stripped back and a queer space reinstated into a LGBTQ+ exhibition area.

"The recent demolition of an adjacent building both physically reveals the site while inviting an exploration of this history of erasure in LGBTQ communities," said Sweeney.

"Lost Histories reimagines 437 Ellicott as an exhibition space for physical fragments of demolished queer spaces in Buffalo, alongside the names of those who died during the AIDS epidemic, as recorded in The Madeline Davis LGBTQ Archive."

Student: Christopher Sweeney
School: University at Buffalo
Course: Master of Architecture

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I Is Another by Shari Bartko

I Is Another by Shari Bartko

Fashion and technology student at University of Art and Design Linz, Shari Bartko created a series of garments that aim to question the construct of gender.

The pieces are made from patterned fabric and include stripes, florals and checkerboard patterns with asymmetrical details, including both the absence and featuring of sleeves and collars.

"The definition of gender itself is shifting towards the blurriness of its boundaries," said Bartko. "After all, what is gender?"

"When we've discovered that reality is a construct – do genders even exist?"

Student: Shari Bartko
School: University of Art and Design Linz
Course: Fashion and Technology

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Not Yet Defined by Oliver Rene Alunović

Not Yet Defined by Oliver Rene Alunović

Oliver Rene Alunović created a cavernous, textural space that aims to deconstruct gender norms as part of his architecture studies at University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute of Architecture.

The environment encourages physical interactions between the walls and floors and the bodies of the people who enter.

"Not Yet Defined investigates a non-biased, non-binary inclusive body culture in a socio-cultural context that is dominated by gender separating beliefs and attitudes," said Alunović. "Sheltered habitats are being created where differences in haptics lead to explorations of surface qualities and invite the body for interaction."

"The spatial formulations try not to dictate how the interaction is going to happen – the body seeks effects that are being triggered by the architecture."

Student: Oliver Rene Alunović
School: University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute of Architecture
Course: Architectural Design

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Partnership content

These projects are presented in school shows from institutions that partner with Dezeen. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.