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MEET THE

WINNERS
ARCH!TECTURE_!NTER!0RS_DES!CN
MAY 202
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PERSPECTIVE
DESIGN Universal design
PERSPECTIVE 094 095
Universal design simply refers to products and interiors designed
for easy use by lefties and righties, people below and above average heights,
multiple generations, and a multitude of physical challenges
its also a matter of designing for minimal physical impact, or ergonomics
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The wcrId's ain pcpuIaticn, reater than at
any oLher poinL in hisLory, makes universal
desiqn more imperaLive Lhan ever. Clobally, Lhe
mosL rapidly qrowinq aqe qroup is 80 years and
older, while one UniLed NaLions reporL claims
LhaL more Lhan 650 million people worldwide
have some sorL ol disabiliLy.
Accordinq Lo Valerie FleLcher, execuLive
direcLor ol BosLonbased lnsLiLuLe lor Human
CenLered Desiqn, physical limiLaLions arise
siqnilicanLly beLween ^5 and 5^ years ol aqe.
"LveryLhinq sLarLs wiLh creaLinq awareness. lL
can be in insLiLuLions ol archiLecLural learninq,
universiLies, lor example," she says.
"ArchiLecLs are Lhe educaLors ol socieLy. 1hey
know whaL's new. 1hey should mandaLe LhaL Lhese
Lhinqs are incorporaLed inLo Lheir buildinqs," says
archi LecL Ramesh Cul aLee, pri nci pal ol
Lincolnshire, lllinoisbased LileCare Desiqn SLudio.
He also says LhaL clienLs are becominq savvy
enouqh in universal desiqn Lo sLarL askinq Lheir
archiLecLs lor iL aL a pro|ecL's commencemenL.
The evcIuticn cf universaI desin
UD doesn'L have Lo be clunky and unappealinq.
"lL doesn'L require a loL ol modilicaLion lor
everyone Lo use i L. l L' s al l abouL how Lo
inLeqraLe beauLy. 1haL's basically |usL qood
desiqn," says CynLhia Leibrock, lounder ol Lasy
Access Lo HealLh, a Coloradobased American
orqani saLi on dedi caLed Lo i mprovi nq and
implemenLinq universal desiqn in residenLial and
commercial pro|ecLs.
"l L i s i mporLanL Lo vi sual l y i nLeqraLe
universal elemenLs so Lhey don'L adverLise aqe
or disabiliLy or Lurn your home inLo a hospiLal.
lL's imporLanL noL Lo seqreqaLe or sLiqmaLise
people Lhrouqh universal desiqn. For example,
why do all disabled people use one enLrance
when everyone else uses anoLher? Many ol Lhe
producLs ol universal desiqn are emblems ol
aqe or disabiliLy. When we use our creaLive
skills Lo implemenL Lhese producLs, Lhen LhaL all
qoes away."
Leibrock, auLhor ol Lhe books BeauLilul
Barrier Free and BeauLilul Universal Desiqn, has
worked on Lhe BeLLy Ford CenLer, Lhe UCLA
Medical CenLer, auLomoLive inLerior desiqns lor
1oyoLa, and LauqhL courses in Lhe archiLecLure
deparLmenL aL Lhe Harvard UniversiLy CraduaLe
School ol Desi qn. She' s al so conducLed
healLhcare desiqn research in Scandinavia,
NorLhern Lurope, and Japan.
Her ranch, where she conducLs seminars lor
archiLecLs, inLerior desiqners, laciliLy manaqers,
and kiLchen and baLh desiqners in universal
desiqn, is universally accessible all leaLures
are visually inLeqraLed, noL merely added on
wiLhouL aesLheLic discreLion. "(We insLalled) a
million Lhinqs LhaL prevenL Lrip and lall. Our
doormaLs are recessed. We have nonski d
lloorinq," Leibrock says. "CerLain linishes on
kiLchen and baLh lloors also make Lhem slip
resisLanL. l've used a loL ol carpeL. We puL liqhLs
on every sLair in Lhe inLersecLion ol Lhe Lread
and Lhe riser and were sure Lo use handrails."
The user-friendIy hcme
ln a universallydesiqned kiLchen, ovens are
locaLed aL eyelevel, relriqeraLors have boLLom
drawerl i ke lreezers and cabi neLs al l ow
walkabiliLy when several cabineL doors are
simulLaneously opened. ln Lhe kiLchen and
baLhroom, sinks have kneespace beneaLh lor
wheel chai r accessi bi l i Ly and lauceLs are
equipped wiLh simple handles LhaL occupanLs
pull up or push down Lo Lurn Lhe waLer on or oll.
l n Lhe baLhroom, showers have boLh
horizonLal and verLical bars lor supporL. Rollin
showers enable wheelchairbound occupanLs Lo
Lransler Lo a chair, olLen hinqed Lo an inLerior
bar. Walkin baLhLubs have a panel Lhrouqh
which Lhe user enLers and Lhen closes Lo make
Lhe Lub waLerLiqhL.
LileCare's CulaLee recommends opLimally
l ocaLed l i qhL swi Lches, phone | acks and
elecLrical ouLleLs Lo accommodaLe Lhe chanqinq
needs ol homeowners, and Lhe inclusion ol
elecLronic buLLons so Lhose who are elderly or
lrail can easily open doors uselul also lor
anyone Lryinq Lo enLer while carryinq armloads
ol qroceries, lor insLance.
Many homeowners may be surprised Lo
learn LhaL Lheir own homes already conLain
universallydesiqned elemenLs, such as easily
operable windows and larqeprinL maLerials LhaL
ease readinq. Solar liqhL Lubes and skyliqhLs are
also considered universal desiqn componenLs,
as Lhey increase liqhL in Lhe home we require
Lwice as much liqhL aL 60 years ol aqe as we do
when we're ^0, accordinq Lo FleLcher.
Lrqonomics, a branch ol universal desiqn
LhaL locuses on prevenLaLive measures by
desiqninq producLs and sysLems LhaL reduce
laLique and discomlorL, is also increasinqly
popular. "(Homeowners) work aL Lhe kiLchen
Lable or oLher lurniLure, buL Lhey don'L Lhink
abouL Lhe lonqLerm ellecLs," says Manuel Saez,
lormerly ol Lhe New Yorkbased Humanscale
desiqn sLudio. "LvenLually, iL's qoinq Lo qeL Lo
you. A couple ol hours a day is enouqh Lo creaLe
Lrouble lor your body."
1he messaqe ol universal desiqn is simply LhaL
more adapLabiliLy we have in our lives, Lhe less
drasLic measures we'll need Lo Lake in Lhe luLure.
A universal need
PERSPECTIVE
DESIGN Universal design
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