‘The Grand Domestic Revolution—User’s Manual’ (GDR) investigates the domestic space and its (changing) use through a variety of methods and disciplines, traversing the fields of art, design, architecture, urban planning, activism and theory. A number of artists and other practitioners contribute to this endeavour. Residents from 2009-2011 include Sepake Angiama, Paul Elliman, and Doris Denekamp who utilized neighbourhood and online research to create prototypes and interventions around the theme of (Green) Cooperativsm. Wietske Maas and Travis Meinolf experimented with Home Production; while 'interor' infrastuctural interventions for the furniture, library and hallways were created by ifau & Jesko Fezer, Mirjam Thomann and Graziela Kunsch. Current themes and residents from February–October 2011 include Kyohei Sakaguchi and Kateřina Šedá who will each investigate forms of usership in architectures; home and housing rights with Maria Pask and Nazima Kadir; the question of invisible and domestic labour taken up by Werker Magazine; Agency will continue its deliberations on copyright issues of domestic THINGS (gardens and textiles); and keywords in relations to food service work will be workshopped with Xu Tan. Parallel to this, the Read-in activity continues. Initiated by artist Annette Krauss and theatre maker, Read-in is an open reading group inhabiting a different neighbour’s home for every session.



The GDR library constitutes the backbone of our ongoing ‘living research’ and thus grows over time. The library offers points of engagement with the project and consists of different research materials such as books, articles, images and DVDs (artist’s video, films) that are available for viewing when visiting the apartment. The first installment was done by the GDR team and was later adapted by Sao Paulo-based artist Graziela Kunsch who suggested that the GDR team create thematic selections.



'The Grand Domestic Revolution-User's Manual' is a long-term project developed as Casco’s contribution to 'Utrecht Manifest: Biennial for Social Design'. The project deals with the evolutionary and collaborative process of “living” research in the contemporary domestic and private sphere – particularly in relation to the spatial imagining (or the built environment). It aims at re-articulating while exercising the notions of the social, the public and, eventually, the commons.




Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews, and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, co-operative living, and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.


(transcription in progress)

KNOV office, Utrecht
With Franka Cadee and Bernadet Naber
Conducted by Elsa and Maiko
(28 September 2010)

Franka and Bernadet

This page requires an introduction.

Maiko: Can you tell us about your organization? Is it a lobbying group?

Franka: No, we do all kinds of things. There are about 2500 midwives in the Netherlands, and they all work independently or most of them do, and we are still one of the only Western countries where home-birth is still relatively normal. We do lobbying, but we're also an organization that midwives can be a member of—because the organization makes protocols for midwives in The Netherlands—we represent midwifes to the ministry of health but also to all other kinds of organizations that are involved—GPs, obstetricians, etc. We also have a register of midwives here so quality is maintained. People have to show what kind of training they do to maintain their skill. That's what the organization does. Lobbying comes in the broader sense of the word.

M: The broader sense?

F: With society in general.

Bernadet: And also concerning income.

F: Yes, we come up with the income for midwives.

M: At this stage, you said that it is still quite normal in The Netherlands for home births. Has that changed in the recent history, or is it increasing?

F: Huge things are happening in that field. There is a lot happening in the media about home birth vs. hospital birth. There is a huge battle between obstetricians and midwives over the head of the client. Because we are one of the few countries in the West left, that have home birth and also because it happens to be that we are one of the countries that have a slightly higher prenatal mortality. Those two things are put together. Whereas actually as midwives we know and we also can show with evidence that it has nothing to do with each other. But of course it is easy to say that the higher level of prenatal mortality is due to home-births.

B: But it is declining a bit in the last couple of years.

F: It‘s about 20% home-birth.

M: Which other Western countries also have home birth?

F: The U.K has home birth but it really varies... It is about 20% home birth, New Zealand, about 10% and Canada, is really developing it's home-birth capacity. You find in those countries, especially the UK, they are trying to fight, especially against the government, to push for home birth again. They try to bring normality back to birth. But it is very very difficult. Once home-birth has disappeared, it is really difficult to bring it back.

E: Why is that?

F: It's not mainly home birth that is important but the fact that a woman gives birth in a normal way—and the art of midwifery is that you actually do not do much. You just watch, you sit, and you check if things are ok, of course if something happens you do something, but generally it is a question of patience. And being very alert. Of course the medical profession is very much about intervening: “We believe intervention is a good thing.” That's how our society works. Midwifery is not like that.

The government there [in the UK?] can see that it‘s a good thing if there is home-birth again. When birth becomes normal, and in that way you get stronger women, emancipated women, you get a healthy nation, and it is cheap. I think that is one of the main reasons they are trying to increase it. But it is difficult if you, as a midwife, have been taught to intervene, to stop intervening. And that's why it is so difficult to turn it back. Once you're used doing something and you have to stop doing it, it's scary. And women also feel safer in a hospital environment with lots of men and white coats.

M: So it is a battle with medicine and technology as well?

F: I think it has to do with that totally. I give antenatal classes in Wageningen. They have a University there with lots of foreign students and PhD students, who are highly educated people from all over the world, and I give a course there about 4 times a year, and I tell them about the Dutch system. And it is fascinating to hear because most of them ask “— What are you doing??” I am not wearing a uniform, just wearing normal clothes and the idea of home-birth, for many people is the most primitive thing that you can do. And I tell them: “Listen, you don't have sex in the hospital either do you? Unless you have problems with fertility, then you go to the hospital. So you don't give birth in the hospital either, unless you have problems with your birth!”

Its the same thing, if people are standing around you while you are making love, it doesn’t go so well. And it is the same with birth! But in many countries, home-birth only happens with the poorest of the poorest people—it's a sign of poverty. It is the idea that you can also buy safety. It is a cultural thing to believe that a doctor around will mean that it is safe. Whereas actually pregnancy and birth are just life itself.

Midwifery posters

M: Do you know why The Netherlands has been able to sustain it as a relatively normal practice?

F: I think because midwives in the Netherlands have always been independent: They don't work for anyone else, they are self-employed. Because of that they are an extremely stubborn breed—And also because of the Dutch culture. It is a Calvinistic culture. For instance giving medicine for pain is not a normal thing. In UK, they give much more pain relief (in every level, as well at the dentist). I guess this Calvinistic attitude of just bearing it has also helped.

M: Have midwives always operated independently?

F: Yes, It's never changed. In other countries like in the UK, midwives were independent in the past—50 to 60 years ago they would still give birth at home in England. In a very short period of time, doctors took over and midwives weren't able to keep standing; because they were taken up into institutions. In the hierarchy, a man is of course above the woman, so the doctor is above midwife. In The Netherlands we do not have that, although there is also a problem with hierarchies.

B: They also work in that chain (you can call it a chain), because when something goes wrong or when there is a risk, of course the midwife will send her client directly to the hospital. The well-being of the child and of the mother is primary.

F: The Client stays with the midwife as long as everything is normal—she is highly trained to know when it is normal and also to know when it might become abnormal. In that case she transfers the mother and the institution takes over the care.

B: They also work in that chain (you can call it a chain), because when something goes wrong or when there is a risk, of course the midwife will send her client directly to the hospital. The well-being of the child and of the mother is primary.

F: The Client stays with the midwife as long as everything is normal—she is highly trained to know when it is normal and also to know when it might become abnormal. In that case she transfers [the mother] and the institution takes over the care.

B: It can be during the pregnancy as well as during labor. And that's a point: that it is not only about labor. When you look at the media, the struggles and fights taking place over the head of the client being talked about are mostly about labor, but not about the pregnancy.

F: The discussion keeps on being between midwives and obstetricians—and women themselves are accepting this medical nonsense.

B: That’s also a cultural aspect. ‘THE SOCIETY THAT YOU CREATE’ phenomenon. “Create your own life, Create your own future.” In our times we want to create everything, we want to be in control of everything. When we get pregnant, we want to know how many children we get, we want to decide when we deliver, how we deliver, how much pain we have etc… though birth is a natural thing—and you cannot control everything.

M: Like management.

B: It is the same thing with your job isn't it? When you look back at your father or grand-father they stay with the same employer for many years and now when we get bored we move on to a new job—so its like being in control of your own life.

F: You find that in other countries women do stand up for home-birth, precisely because they do not enough access to it. So they have to fight for it. In Holland you don’t have to fight to have (home)birth. You do not have this women's movement. We, as midwives, are also waiting for women to stand up and say “we want that.”

B: The difficult part of it is that you only pregnant for 9 months. And a movement takes more time. Once a woman isn't pregnant anymore, she isn’t part of the struggle anymore.

F: Though in the UK, they are also pregnant 9 months, and there is a political movement.

B: But it is one of the difficult aspects of it.

F: Absolutely. When you're pregnant you are too tired, when you have children, you are busy with them. Before and afterwards, you completely forget about it.

M: Maybe this is good point since you are talking about movement, as a matter of self-organizing.

F: Do you know the Farm of Ina May Gaskin? She is a midwife in the United States and she has set up something called The Farm, which is a communal space which pushes people to give birth at home. She also invites them to The Farm. Lots of people have been against her in the States, but what she does is slowly being recognized. She wrote a wonderful book called Spiritual Midwifery—but she works from the idea of creating an environment where people can come to be able to have this home-birth in a communal space. Women go at about the 36th week of their pregnancy and they stay A couple of weeks.

M: So the example of The Farm having a communal space for the home birth, is that an aspect that you would see has helpful for the movement and to get more women to fight for this?

F: In Holland, there's actually a movement for birthing centers but I wonder if that's not an in-between way of slowly getting women to go to the hospital. Its a sneaky way of calling it something else.

B: And it is near a hospital most of the time.

"Midwives do it...

F: It is run by midwives, obstetricians, different kinds [of?]… Some of the very large towns have them, especially in circumstances where it might not be good to give birth at home—mainly poverty—or a long distance to the hospital. But generally I do not think that this will help women to give birth normally. But you are right, if it was possible to bring it in society more publicly, it could help, but where? Except by talking about it more publicly, or having a public space where people can talk about their experiences.

B: We are busy with a communication strategy for the coming 5 years and one of the big issues is the movement—to get started with it. We can show examples, like The Farm, for instance. It can also be put on the political agenda, so there would be more of a lobbying strategy.

F: It can also be research and looking at it more academically. More and more midwives are doing research about the issues of midwifery. The first midwifery professor in The Netherlands became very important for midwifery—though I feel that it is also adopting a male behavior she meant ‘academic’, she confirmed.—It is also about the hierarchies: the difference between obstetricians and midwives is huge. And midwives feel intimidated by obstetricians. It's because their training is different, they do not have a university training. By giving them the academic skills, they will be able to talk at the same level.

M: Is it always a woman that is a midwife?

F: No. the word is Anglo-Saxon. It means “with women.” And you can be a with-woman if you're a man or a woman. About 4% of midwives in The Netherlands are men. Whereas 10–20% of the obstetricians will be women.

M: Is there something in the material environment of the home that is required, or a certain set-up to make the work?

F: Pregnancy wise, they come to the midwifery clinic. And birth, if at home, will be in the woman's own bed—In Holland they tend to make the beds high. Midwives use birthing stools which were created by a Dutch midwife called Beatrice Smulders. But for the rest, we tend to make it slightly dark. A midwife always has her delivery bag with her—her tools, her medicines… It is a ritual and every midwife does it her own way. Doing anything to the client’s home that would make it less a home wouldn't be a good idea. Hospitals even try to re-create this home feeling! They put flowery curtains and pictures on the wall, and they try to put the machines behind screens and they dim the lights.

M: Isn’t the good thing about lobbying on a state level is that they can see that it is less expensive?

F: Of course but you mustn’t forget that many obstetricians are men from a certain class… I have never seen a midwife as a minister of health but I have seen obstetricians as ministers of health and all the way through the ministry [at all levels of the ministry?]. Midwives are much less able to grow in positions and society because of their different backgrounds. A midwife will generally come from the middle-class, and the obstetricians from an upper-class. It comes with different training, different cultures, all these issues that make it really hard to break through. If I talk to the ministry of health, also he will look and listen to me in a different way. Midwifery deals with very soft side of life, not machines. I am talking about sitting with a woman, talking to her and making her feel safe. It is more difficult to take that seriously than an obstetrician whose job is to intervene when there are problems.

B: But of course the financial aspects are being looked at and are an important factor. Of course the savings will be huge if everyone would start having home-births. When you do not need the hospital room, the obstetrician (paid at least 3 times more than a midwife), the nurse, and the medical equipment.

F: The economic crisis could help in that sense.

E: Is there a specific social class that practices home-birth?

F: In the UK, you'll see it mostly with middle-class alternative women. But in Holland, it is all kinds.

B: There is also the fact that women give birth later in their lives (average 32) so the risks increase. Also white women of low social economic status and women who have an illegal status, asylum seekers, people who weren't born here, second generation people from sub-Saharan Africa, people with language problems will have a higher risk, because they also go through all kinds of other problems.

M: Who will pay for the services of a midwife?

F: We send the bill to the insurance companies and they pay us. It is our ethical policy to help everyone. Otherwise there is a special fund from the state for midwifes to get money for helping women who have no status. Also because birth is considered an emergency, and by law you should have access to health care in emergency cases.

M: In terms of community life—because we believe this is a resource that could help to mobilize from there—could you speak about the aspects of community building? Would there be a need for thinking about what this community is and who would be in it to help your movement?

F: There is this movement, the Marmony (This is a name of the Italian restraint they meet, therefore this particular group is calles Marmony-which means ‘mother’s child’)—which is a network of about 40 midwifes that have specific positions in The Netherlands and they come together 3 times a year to network and to support each other. But I wish that women, clients, would have a network! Maybe the gymnastics and antenatal classes are the moment were women meet and can talk about these things. There is also a midwifery practice being introduced called The BabyCafé. Its a place where people meet communally, where women can get peer support. It is up and coming and an efficient way to promote our cause.

KNOV office

B: In the last 2 years, we also try to support the Consumer Organization for Parenthood. Again, it is difficult to sustain such organization.

F: Most other organizations are for chronic illness—asthma, the rheumatic organization, etc… But an organization for pregnancy! It should then be broader, for pregnancy AND childhood.

M: Talking about childcare, there was this housing community in Vienna, based on women's needs about safety and childcare. One of the things they brought up design-wise were the staircases of the apartments. They would have very large landings with lots of windows, so people could hang out. They talked about women needing to have more meeting moments because often they are busy with domestic work, children and work. It also increases chances of employment, there can be more opportunities. I am trying to link the design aspects to that. Is there a tool, conceptual, theoretical, or visual that could help?

F: I certainly think that if you could make a piece of furniture that a woman could feel comfortable on to give birth, that you would be able to take with you wherever you went (portable)—there is a birthing stool but it feels like sitting on concrete. It's made of hard plastic. So if there could be a chair where a woman could give birth, but also breast feed, and sit on even when she's menopausal or even when she is an old granny. So when you marry, you get this woman's chair.

Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, cooperative living and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.


GDR Futurist Writing School - Photos

photos by Casco and Marielle Verdijk

March 2012, — posted by Casco