Universal Design and Cultural Heritage

A photo of architectural plans. Universal design and cultural heritageDo architects design first and worry about legislation later or is it the reverse? Danish researcher Camilla Rhyl 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. So, can universal design and cultural heritage work together?

Architects work with sensory, social and cognitive aspects of design, but there is no legislative reference to this part of their work. Rhyl’s book chapter is not open access, but the abstract is informative. 

From the abstract

One of the main obstacles to increase universal design in the built environment is understanding it as architectural concept. Based on research findings the legislative interpretation of universal design often takes precedence over the architectural interpretation. As such it is perceived as limiting to creativity and architectural quality.

However architects at the same time work consistently with sensory, social and cognitive aspects of architectural quality. However, there is no legislative universal reference to this part of their work.

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 universal design in the general and legislative manner.

There seems to be an apparent gap between their values, methods and architectural thinking and the way universal design is presented and perceived currently in Norway and Denmark.

Using an example of a cultural heritage project the article demonstrates how it is possible to interpret universal design in cultural heritage practice. And without compromising architectural quality or universal design. Rather, it expands and develops architectural understanding of the possibilities of universal design.

The title of the chapter is, So much more than building regulations: Universal design and the case of practice.

The full document may be access through the Aalborg University site. If you subscribe to ResearchGate or Academia.edu 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. 

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