Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 2008

Degree Name

Master of Architecture - (M.Arch.)


School of Architecture

First Advisor

Zeynep Celik

Second Advisor

Karen A. Franck

Third Advisor

Antonio P. De Sousa Santos


Architecture is more than the history, design and construction of buildings; it is also the creation, defining, redefining, and use of space. An understanding of these non-brick-and-mortar aspects includes how the use and meaning of that space changes over time. Gay space, specifically gay male space, is studied as both material space and social space. Material space is the 'brick and mortar' space designed for this purpose or created out of existing space, such as a room, building or neighborhood. Social spaces are the areas where human interaction occurs, such as block parties and festivals; it is more about the activities that occur than the places where they are held, even when those spaces have symbolic meanings. Gay space is studied in the context of material and social 'space' in general; the Castro is looked at in the context of gay space. The knowledge thus gained can be used by urban and social planners and in heritage preservation and tourism.

The Castro is an internationally recognized gay ghetto, continuing a tradition in the city dating back at least 100 years. It is also a living, changing neighborhood, subject to the same pressures as other districts. There are two periods to the Castro as gay space: the pre-AIDS and AIDS periods. Social, economic, and political factors operate in both periods, with the neighborhood's material and social space changing as mainstream gay and non-gay society changes. As the Castro evolves a new type of gay space is created, that of myth, imagination and remembrance; this space is both material and social.

With alternate futures possible, it is not clear whether a gay ghetto is even needed in San Francisco anymore. However, what has been learned by studying the Castro is useful in understanding and creating gay and specialized spaces elsewhere.

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Architecture Commons