RCA student Yiran Chu has conceptualized a traveling queer club in response to extensive closures of many LGBTQ+ venues.

By Madeline Brik.

Located about two hours from London, Northampton is a large market town rich in local history. Despite the city’s many historical attractions and leisurely parks, the local LGBTQ+ community has faced harsh restrictions as of late due to widespread closure of queer venues across the globe. Queer clubs are more than just happy hour deals, but “places of socialization [which] are intrinsic to a marginalized social group like the LGBTQ community,” Yiran Chu, an architecture student at the Royal College of Arts (RCA) in London, told Mission over email

Chu’s latest project aims to uplift the LBGTQ+ community in Northampton by promoting a safe, social atmosphere in response to outbreaks of violence and closures amidst the pandemic. In conjunction with Chu’s personal experiences with the LGBTQ+ community and her focus on architecture, the artist has proposed a “bootmobile,” an inclusive and mobile shoe-shaped venue for the community.

The queer community has often faced greater rates of discriminitation and marginalization during times of crisis, as shown in film Your Name Enraved Herein showcasing a Taiwanese couple in a homophobic society and the Gays Against Guns rallys in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting. In response to the increased closures of queer venues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Chu was inspired to construct a traveling venue to safehouse the community.

In homage to Northampton’s shoemaking heritage, Chu conceptualized the Mobile Queer Club as a large boot on wheels. “The appearance of the mobile vehicle is designed without obvious queer features, which could avoid being attacked by homophobia,” says Chu. By camouflaging the venue, the “bootmobile form is more integrated into local culture and easily attracts different types of people’s attention.”

Inside the boot, Chu wants to create an inviting queer space for entertainment, education, and social support. True to the tropes of the queer community, Chu has designed the interior with a rainbow color scheme complete with disco balls.

Chu’s “bootmobile” is a work in progress as she continues navigating her degree at RCA. “I am still learning how details can be used to enrich the quality and experience of space and thus enhance the interior’s ability to be an expressive medium,” says Chu.

Even amidst times of hardship, the LGBTQ+ community will persist in finding ways to connect and engage. Buoyant spaces, like Chu’s “bootmobile,” are important for the community to come together, dismantle shame, and celebrate queerhood.