Books by Jos Boys

Front cover of book. Dark green background with human figures in white Jos Boys’ latest book Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader, is a collection of both academic and personal accounts of how the built environment is experienced by different people. It explores the interconnections between disability, architecture and cities. The writing style is mostly non-academic and includes chapters from a man who is blind and a woman who approaches universal design from a feminist perspective. 

This book follows Doing Disability Differently, which was cover of book showing a young person in a wheelchair looking out over rooftops in the London Eyepublished in 2014. The Architectural Review online publication has an interesting, if short, review of the book in which Jos Boys argues that rethinking ability and architecture offers a powerful tool to design differently. It asks the intriguing question: can working from dis/ability actually generate an alternative kind of architectural avant-garde?

You might also be interested in reading another article in The Architectural Review, Redefining modular man for a new era of inclusivity by Catherine Slessor.


Not just accessible, but inclusive playgrounds

Distance shot of children on a carousel or spinnerMaking a children’s playground physically accessible for children with disability is an insufficient measure of its inclusiveness. Having a continuous path of travel is a good start, but what if the child cannot leave the path to join in the activities? This article reports on research on four playgrounds in Turkey and provides some good recommendations and the reasons behind them. They cite Australia’s Livvi’s Place playgrounds and show how to apply the seven principles of universal design to playgrounds. For example, Principle 2, Flexible Use “ensure that spaces are designed so as to be easily understood, to give children the opportunity to try and succeed and to make the users feel safe. …” Turkey has has signed up to the UN Convention and is keen to make progress towards social inclusion.

The article is titled, No “Obstacles” In Playgrounds That Are Not Only Accessible But Also Inclusive, by Hatice Ayatac and Ipek Pola. Published in the ICONARP International Journal Of Architecture & Planning.

You can also see more about Livvi’s Place playgrounds and their report, State of Play for Inclusive Playgrounds.


Overcoming Barriers to Participation: An Aquarium Case Study

view of an aquarium window with two silhouetted figures in front Informal learning, such as that gained by visiting a museum, gallery, zoo or aquarium, is part of everyday life for most people. Generally, they are unaware of how they are learning and taking in information. For people who are blind or have low vision, informal learning in the context of an aquarium with moving animals rather than static exhibits is another kind of design challenge. Providing audio descriptions about the fish, for example, does not describe the visual scene in real time, such as “there is a large stingray coming towards us and a shoal of fish is moving out of its path”. In her article, Overcoming Barriers to Participation: An Aquarium Case Study, Carrie Bruce reports the results of a trial of a prototype system for providing both real time information with descriptive information.

Editor’s note: It is too easy to assume that a blind person would not want to participate in something that for most people is about the visual experience, such as sight seeing or a stage show. I recently travelled to Peru with a small tour group which included a blind man. He could not see Machu Picchu and all the ancient relics, he could not see Lake Titicaca, and all the other wonderful sights, but with the help of a companion he still walked around Machu Picchu and sailed on Lake Titicaca as well as joining in all other activities and enjoying excellent meals. Although he became blind in his childhood, in 70 years he has travelled widely across the world and has many interesting tales to tell.  Also a point to note for inclusive tourism. 


Architecture students’ attitudes to UD

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilThe attitudes of architecture students to universal design is the focus of a Deakin University study. It builds on previous work (Design 4 Diversity) in 2010 on inter-professional learning for architecture and occupational therapy students. The findings of this latest study show that while architecture students viewed access to public environments favourably, there was a mixed response in relation to private homes.

Reasons not to include universal design features in homes included cost, client desires and restrictions on creativity. For example, “Over-designing for the sake of making the residence accessible in the future, just in case, is an unnecessary cost”; “Private homes should be designed to the individual”; and “Legislation restricts design, resulting in negative impacts the ‘requirements’ did not intend”. (Ed Note: These phrases have been used many times by practicing architects and designers as followers of UD are aware.)

The study used a quantitative approach and applied statistical techniques to the data. The first part of the document covers the history of universal design (as all such studies do) and there is an extended section on methods and statistics. For followers of UD, the Discussion section might be of most interest. 

The authors of Students’ Attitudes to Universal Design in Architecture Education, are Helen Larkin, Kelsey Dell, and Danielle Hitch. It was published in the Journal of Social Inclusion, 2016.

See also previous work by Larkin et al, on this topic, and the 2016 UD Conference presentation by Nicholas Loder and Lisa Stafford, “Moving from the Margins: Embedding inclusive thinking in design education” 


Universal Design and Cultural Heritage

architectural plansDo architects design first and worry about legislation later or is it the reverse? Danish researcher Camilla Rhyl from Aalborg University decided to find out in the context of increasing universal design in the built environment. She found that the legislative interpretation takes precedence over architectural interpretation and is perceived as limiting creativity and architectural quality. Architects regularly work with sensory, social and cognitive aspects of design, but there is no legislative reference to this part of their work. The following is from the second half of Camilla Rhyl’s abstract from a book chapter, So much more than building regulations: Universal design and the case of practice.

“The article shows how their methods, values and architectural thinking is built on a foundation of multisensory inclusion and quality, only they do not perceive this understanding as being UD in the general and legislative manner. There seems to be an apparent gap between their values, methods and architectural thinking and the legislative framework in which UD is presented and perceived currently in Norway and Denmark. Through an example of a cultural heritage (CH) project by the Danish architect Merete Lind Mikkelsen, the article demonstrates how it is possible to interpret UD in CH practice without compromising architectural quality or UD, but rather expand and develop the architectural understanding of the possibilities of UD.”

The full document may be access through the Aalborg University site, or the Danish National Research Database. If you subscribe to ResearchGate or you may be able to access this chapter without needing the whole book.

Published in: Accessibility As a Key Enabling Knowledge for Enhancement of Cultural Heritage, 2016, p. 115-130. 


Courthouse design and indigenous communities

Brisbane Court Building showing a foyer where past Justices official portraits hang.The design of courtrooms and courthouses in Australia have been based on the English architectural principles, but is this appropriate in the Australian context, paricularly for indigenous communities? The design of courthouses has favoured the grand and imposing, and to make statements of their own to all who enter. This article by  Thalia Anthony and Elizabeth Grant provides another perspective of our court buildings. They include some good case studies with photos to illustrate their points. Here is part of their conclusion:

Brisbane court room showing the glass surround for the accused dock.“This article has provided a descriptive overview of some of the emerging principles to accommodate Indigenous needs in the design of courthouses, in which Indigenous oversight of design processes is crucial. It suggests that court facilities that allow Indigenous users to engage in court processes, protect Indigenous users’ privacy and maintain sightlines with Country can help remove the alienation that Indigenous defendants, victims and families experience in mainstream courts.”

The pictures show interiors of the Brisbane Supreme Court building. Top photo shows a foyer with official portraits of past Justices in their robes. The lower picture shows the dock for the accused. This dock was intended to be wheelchair accessible but the doorway opening width is obstructed by the internal shelf. The ramp ends at the outward opening door and indicates this was an afterthought as a landing in front of the door is not possible due to the other fittings. Pictures by Jane Bringolf.



Architecture competitions for UD: codes or innovation?

picture of a modern building Norway Opera HouseHow juries assess universal design in architectural school competitions is critical to the level of innovation that can be expected. Leif D. Houck of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences gives an excellent analysis of how competitions are run today and how they can be improved for the future. Unlike most papers on universal design Houck does not refer to the classic seven principles – he refers to the updated work of Steinfeld and Maisel. The following excerpt from the introductory section provides a good overview and direction of the discussion in the article. We would do well to take up the recommendations here in Australia.

“The very reason to organize an architectural competition is to achieve maximum quality in a project. The idea is not to have a competition to see if anyone manages to comply the regulations, building codes and the competition brief. No, the idea is to achieve qualities beyond the regulations. An architectural competition will most likely result in different designs and solution – with different qualities. Additionally, a project’s development from developing the building program until the building stage contains stages in which the project is in process and will (hopefully) be improved. Lid’s approach to look at Universal Design at different levels from strategic to instrumental, is useful in the discussion of what level Universal Design should be solved in architectural competitions. Which challenges should be solved in the competition stage, and which challenges can be solved in the development of the winner project.”

You can download the full article, How Juries Assess UD in Norwegian Architectural School CompetitionsThe article was published in Universal Design 2016: Learning from the Past, Designing for the Future H. Petrie et al. (Eds.) © 2016  

The picture is of the Oslo Opera House

This article is published online with Open Access by IOS Press and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC 4.0). doi:10.3233/978-1-61499-684-2-229