Placemaking Toolkit

Children play with bubbles in urban area.Designing public space is seen as something for trained professionals. But the Placemaking Toolkit shows how community groups and residents can do their own place make-over. The Guide is for community-driven, low-cost public space transformation. With the support of local government anyone can change a neglected space in their neighbourhood into a clean and safe play area or park. This Guide is especially relevant for developing countries and remote communities in any country. The Guide is from the Public Space Network.      

 

Is your beer accessible?

Picture from front cover of the booklet showing two pubs and a man who is blind using his smartphone to order food.It’s a simple thing and doesn’t always take much to achieve. The British Beer & Pub Association has a straightforward booklet of advice and good case studies for accessibility. It dispels a lot of myths, and many of the adaptations are simple, such as easy to read menus. It covers physical, sensory and cognitive issues that potential customers might have. So joke-type symbols for toilets are not a good idea, as well as understanding that not all disabilities are visible. Excellent resource for any food and beverage venue. As is often the case, it is not rocket science or costly, just thoughtful.

The title of the publication is An Open Welcome: Making your pub accessible for customers. As Government Disability Champion for Tourism, Chris Veitch says, “Pubs are places where everyone is welcome. It’s where family, friends and colleagues come together and where tourists to the country feel they will see the true, welcoming Britain”. 

Editor’s note: Everyone should be able to have a beer with Duncan.

UD and Parks and Plazas

Two people walk on a path that is edged with lots of greenery. In the background there are white cafe umbrellas.Poorly designed spaces limit the number of people who can use them – they might look great, but that is not enough. Everyone should benefit from great civic space. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a great guide to Parks and Plazas. The online guide includes good case studies and easy to follow tips. Here are a few of the points covered. See the online guide for the rest. 

Connections to the street: Parks and plazas should meet the street at grade, ensuring that anyone can enter the space. When a grade change must be addressed, integrated ramps and stairs create a unified experience regardless of ability. Safe materials that are, tactile, not slippery when wet, and provide high contrast should be chosen.

Clear identity: While maintaining a seamless entry from the street is important, creating a space separate from the street gives identity to the space. Trees can buffer noise and other sensory information from other areas.  

Providing options: Public places serve many different groups of people, with differing needs. One solution is not going to accommodate everyone, but the scale of many public places creates room for spaces that give visitors different choices and opportunities.

Ease of access to restrooms: Bathrooms that are easy to locate allow families with children, people with disabilities, and older adults to readily use facilities that everyone needs. Placing bathrooms near streets and along major pathways of parks makes locating restrooms easier if the need arises. Restrooms should be clearly indicated on multi-sensory signage throughout parks and plazas. 

The guide is supplemented by What is a great civic space? which looks at benefits of inclusion and the identity of place.  

Inclusive leisure facilities: A design guide

An assistance dog leans down towards a swimmer in the water at the side of the pool. A design guide for inclusive leisure facilities is an excellent resource for designers, policy makers and municipal authorities. Lots of drawings and graphics provide design guidance and highlight the key points. Using the principles of universal design means that it is not a standardised design template. Privacy and comfort for all users is one of the key elements. Mixed gender spaces for caregivers and parents with young children are also important. Local cultural customs also need to be considered. The classic gender segregation of space has already evolved into more universal space because of disability legislation. 

The guide addresses confusion over language and terminology, use of space and general design principles. The title of the guide is, Designing for Inclusivity: Strategies for Universal Washrooms and Change Rooms in Community and Recreation Facilities. It covers: inclusivity for families, people with disability, transgender and non-binary people, privacy, increased efficiency and forward thinking design. The principles are:

1.  Strive for inclusivity and access for all
2. Use openness to enhance safety through activity and shared monitoring
3. Create privacy where most needed to enhance comfort
4. Welcome everyone with signage that emphasizes function and is clear, inclusive, and positive
5. Ensure supportive staff operations and communications

Universally designed leisure facilities

A walkway entrance at a leisure facility has a big green sign that has icons showing lots of different user groups.What does washroom and change room design have to do with social justice? Darryl Condon answers this question in a Pools and Leisure Magazine article. He has a good grasp of all the relevant design issues across the diversity and inclusion spectrum. The advice and information is transferable to any kind of public facility because it is explained with a universal design approach. Condon lists five design strategies that designers can take away. At the end of the article he advises that with any new facility, a diverse group of users should be consulted. A very thoughtful article in this international magazine published via issuu. It has other articles of interest to designers and architects. You can find the article, Designing for Inclusivity: Strategies for universal washrooms and change rooms in community sport and recreation facilities, on page 48. Pictures and graphics are a nice addition.

The article begins: “What does washroom and change room design have to do with social justice? A great deal. As architects, we must consider the social impact resulting from all aspects of our work. Universal washrooms and change rooms are increasingly crucial in the design of recreation and sport facilities and are one element in our approach to more impactful design”.

This article is also on Linked In and probably easier to read than the issuu version. The picture is from the Linked In version. The social inclusion aspect is also discussed by Katherine Webber in Toilets, Taboos and Design Principles.  

Landscaping with universal design

A garden with water features and lots of plantings around a curving footway. In the background a woman is being pushed in a wheelchair.Compliance with legal requirements in public spaces is rarely enough to guarantee access for everyone. A focus on technical aspects often results in spaces that are still challenging for many. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a Universal Design page where they list some of the disabilities and impairments regularly overlooked. For example, dementia, deafness, vision loss, and autism. The classic 7 Principles of Universal Design are re-jigged to suit landscape design: 

      • Accessible
      • Comfortable
      • Participatory
      • Ecological
      • Legible
      • Multi-sensory
      • Predictable
      • Walkable/Traversable.

More detail on the above list is on their web page.You can also find more resources on their website including one specifically on Universal Design: Parks and Plazas with some nice case studies too. 

Tourism, temples and digital design

Brightly coloured temple at the end of a long walkway in Taiwan.According to a research paper on designing information kiosks, they should be designed based on the following five principles if people are going to use them:
1. Do not make me think.
2. Do not make me wait.
3. Do not allow me to feel annoyed.
4. Do not take control away from me.
5. Do not take advantage of me (do not be evil).

These principles of human–computer interface design serve as critical concepts in kiosk design. Height setting, tactile feedback, and text colour should also be considered.

In a paper from Taiwan, the authors use the seven principles of universal design for the design of kiosks in the context of tourism and user centred design. The results of the study show different preferences for different aspects of temples. For example, participants preferred interactive representations of gods, but textual and graphic content for temple carvings.

There is lots of statistical analysis to back up their claims. This study has much to offer those who design museum-type interactive kiosks for visitors. The main aim of the study was to maintain commercial development of tourism in general and visitation of temples. The title of the paper is, Cultural tourism and temples: Content construction and interactivity design

Abstract: Cultural and creative industries have a crucial role in the post-industrial knowledge economy. However, our understanding of the importance of temples in connecting people with society is limited. To fill this gap, this study explores points of interest for tourists in Taiwan to analyse the design of cultural interest operation modes in temples’ interactive kiosk interfaces. We also examine three cultural levels related to the design of interactive kiosks in temples. Results reveal that participants’ levels of interest vary depending on temple complexity. Most participants prefer animated presentations of content related to two- and three-dimensional murals and the history and origins of temples. We illustrate how to develop a process for designing cultural and creative digital products. We construct a flowchart for guided temple tours and present an effective and suitable design method and its prototype product. Implications for the revitalisation of historic sites to create new value are discussed. 

Learning through experience

A scene of the station showing people near the ticket barrier gates. Claremont College students from different disciplines joined the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip to Japan. A short video shows them checking out accessibility at Umeda train station and Ogimachi Park. The trip included time with Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department working on a project. They explored robotic technologies and universal design and created a model high tech recreational space for older people. The students conclude that barrier free places are not just for people with disability – it’s about including everyone. 

Abstract:  Studying Accessibility in Japan shows the research project led by Professor Angelina Chin (history, Pomona) with students who studied universal design and accessibility in Japan during the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip. The group also worked with the Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department.

Editor’s note: This is a video only publication – I couldn’t find any written material other than the abstract. The download button takes you to a high definition of the video, not a document. It is a very large file.

UD at the Zoo: A case study

Arched entrance to Brookfield Zoo.The principles of universal design were used in Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo during upgrade and extension works. This case study covers changes to the entrance, maps and information, transportation within the park, toilets, benches, tables, and exhibit design and enhancement. In addition, trained staff are on hand to provide additional help to visitors where needed. Each improvement is matched to one or more of the seven principles of universal design. The conference paper ends with, “By incorporating the Principles of Universal Design all visitors are offered equal experiences as they interact with the animal, exhibits and each other. Without even realizing barriers have been removed, everyone, regardless of their abilities, has a more enjoyable and inclusive experience.”

The title of the paper is, Universal Design in a Zoological Setting, and is free to download as PDF. It also serves as an example for urban design and place planning.

The picture is of the South Gate entrance. When the parking lot was resurfaced, the level of the lot was made even with the kerb to provide a level entrance for all visitors.

Inclusive Historic Houses

A white painted two storey home with white pillars all round supporting the verandah.Some good advice from a Masters dissertation on how to create inclusive Historic House stories and exhibits. The emphasis is on overcoming the practice of relating the dominant white male narrative. The dissertation discusses issues of diversity of ethnicity, socio-economic status and belief systems. “One way historic house museums might address this issue of exclusive narratives is to purposely seek out and recognize stories of the forgotten or overlooked people who occupied the house. These stories often involve people of color, women, servants, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and to some extent, children.” Case studies highlight the value of recommendations: 

  • Include diverse perspectives and narratives
  • Connect the past to the present
  • Build with shared authority
  • Make the human connection 

The title of the dissertation is, If These Walls Could Talk: Best Practices for Storytelling in Historic House Museums, by Hannah M Gaston. 

Abstract: Historic house museums are one of the most common types of museums in the United States. These museums vary from large institutions with budgets of several million dollars to entirely volunteer-run organizations, but all these museums tell stories about their former inhabitants, their buildings, and their objects. While some of these museums excel at storytelling through programming and interpretation, many historic house museums still struggle to discover and implement recognized best practices. With limited resources, decreased visitation, and questions of sustainability, historic house museums have to learn to tell relevant and compelling stories to stay viable. Literature from the field suggests four best practices for relevant storytelling: 1) include diverse stories and narratives; 2) connect the past to the present; 3) build shared authority; and 4) make the human connection. This study surveys historic house museums across the United States to identify the institutional leaders of the field that are successfully utilizing storytelling best practices. Case studies of eight historic house museums led to a set of five recommendations for each best practice. These recommendations serve as a tool for practical implementation of best practices for telling relevant and compelling stories at all historic house museums.