Architecture Program


First Advisor

Mark Hinchman

Date of this Version

Summer 7-29-2020


O'Shaughnessy, M. (2020) His and hers: Gender-specific design in mid-twentieth century North America through film and television [Masters thesis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln]. UNL Digital Commons.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Architecture, Under the Supervision of Professor Mark Hinchman. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2020

Copyright 2020 Morgan O’Shaughnessy


The built environment exists as a variety of ‘spaces’ which are constructed by, and for, the people who occupy them. What is the relationship between social constructs of gender and our built environment in the 20th century? How does film and television representing the mid-20th century exemplify this relationship? The overall theme of this topic will include a positive relationship between social gender constructs and our built environment. Through the exploration of select film and television, this study attempts to answer the question of how gender-focused design reinforces traditional gender roles in North American society in mid-20th century. This study will review what defines ‘space’, a brief history of gender roles in domestic and commercial spaces, and the social and psychological impact of women’s roles within these spaces. With the historical context provided, select environments from film and television will be analyzed and compared through the perspective of gender-focused design. The elements of presumed gender roles in each of these filmed spaces will be studied and analyzed through plot analysis of popular television and film from the mid-20th century United States. The methods of this study will include qualitative content analysis, observation, and comparative research of film. The conclusions of this study will attempt to connect the built environment to its effects on gender stereotypes. This conclusion will be supported by the historical fidelity and architectural design within television and film production sets of selected media representing mid-20th century gender roles in the United States.

The visual content to be studied are the film Pillow Talk (1959) and the television series Mad Men(2007). By collecting information through observation and content analysis of film and television, this exploration of the relationship between the built environment and gender roles will further the understanding of this relationship as well as reinforce the importance of changing the manner in which shared spaced are designed in order to become diverse, safe, and inclusive.

Advisor: Mark Hinchman