Architects have a creative responsibility

A creative workshop scene. A woman is holding a pair of scissors, another is holding a pen over paper.An article in Architecture and Design magazine makes the point that architects have a creative responsibility to ensure designs are not just accessible but also inclusive and future proofed. In most cases renovating a building to be accessible costs significantly more than making the building accessible from new. Consequently, it makes economic sense to make places and spaces inclusive from the beginning.

There are three easy changes architects can make to their design process to make more inclusive places and spaces. First, involve people with disability and other marginalised groups in the design phase. In other words, co-design.

Co-designing with a diversity of building users is an essential element of a universal design approach. Architects get to understand the challenges and barriers as well as the solutions that come from this process. The second change is to look beyond access consultants.

Access consultants typically focus on regulatory compliance to make sure they meet standards. However, if given more scope, they can also provide solutions beyond the standards within a co-design process. The third change is to avoid exaggerating the design challenges.

The co-design process brings practical solutions to the table that are often outside the usual architectural ideas about universal design. For example, the cost of a ramp can be saved if it can be designed out.

The article concludes, “Ultimately, the true measure of architectural excellence lies not just in the beauty of the structures we create but the lives changed by making accessibility non-negotiable”. 

The title of the magazine article is, How architects can help create a more inclusive Australia.

Some background research

a series of black icons on white background depicting people of all shapes and sizes, including a baby in a stroller, a person with a can and a wheelchair user.A research project by Ielegems and Vanrie compared the costs of new-build with renovation. They found that both have costs but they are significantly lower for new-builds. The aim of their study was to find a research method to calculate the cost of universal design. Their paper is necessarily technical and covers different types of public buildings. The findings vary according to the scale of each building. 

However, economic arguments usually favour the users of the building and not the builders and developers. Consequently, going beyond compliance becomes a political and ethical decision rather than an economic one.

The title of the article is, The cost of Universal Design for public buildings: Exploring a realistic, context dependent research approach. It is covered in more detail in a previous post and was cited and downloaded from the CUDA website for the magazine article above.


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