Grand Designs: Can they be universally designed?

Deakin House couple standing in the garden with the Grand Designs presenterAn episode of Grand Designs Australia featured a couple living in Canberra who needed to re-design their home because the husband has Parkinson’s disease.This was no ordinary home to start with and they wanted to keep the 1970s feel in the new version. Any access consultant or occupational therapist viewing the pictures and snippets from the episode will see many things that were not considered for the husband, and also for the wife down the track. This episode highlights two things: the ability of the architect and client to think beyond the husband’s reduced ability to walk, and the emotional need for aesthetics.

As an example, from the picture above and others it appears that the sliding door track to the patio is not recessed. The patio looks narrow, offering minimal circulation space and steps down to the lawn. The garden path could have been designed to allow a more direct route instead of a zig-zag arrangement. But for this couple, aesthetics took precedence.

As Joe Manton, Director Centre for Universal Design Australia says, “For some people, the importance of ‘design and feel’ are just as critical as the ‘function and future proofing’. Whilst it may appear from an outsider’s perspective to have missed opportunities in the design to provide a more effective functional outcome, the expected life span of the occupant, given the clear health situation, may have meant that the ‘lived experience’ and enjoyment of the architecture was an overriding  consideration for this particular home owner.

It highlights that if people can afford to do so, they will choose to build homes that meet their particular ‘desires’ rather than necessarily meeting what could appear to be more cost effective, functional long term needs and outcomes for themselves and others. After all, many will say, it can always be modified later – that is, you have the money.

People are generally good at doing this sort of thing. Just think about the new pair of stilettos that cost a fortune. They were irresistible, they looked great, but after 4 hours in them, we are holding them by the sling strap at the back and walking in our bare feet because we can’t stand the pain of the blisters any more!”

You can view the Deakin House Video Diary to see the before and after story; view Series 6 Episode 9 of Grand Designs Australia; and Deakin House expert tips.

See what you think…

The picture is from Grand Designs Australia