Universal design as ‘symbiosis’

Symbiosis is not a word usually associated with universal design, but it’s another way of looking at it. Symbiosis means interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association to the advantage of both.

An article from Malaysia uses symbiosis in the context of designs for the disabled body advantage the non-disabled body – it’s a win-win.

The article covers the usual introductory material about universal design and then moves into a discussion on indoor spaces. The research questions focus on the application of universal design to achieve integration.

The paper recounts three case studies to show how people with disability can get the same sense of belonging as non-disabled people. The use of materials, space function and space planning each have a role to play.

Case studies

Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Center showing people looking at exhibits.

Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Centre

The first case study is the Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Center in Seattle. The centre fosters a collaborative working environment to educate people about global issues including disability.

The second case study is the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. This building is a studio of visual and accessible sensory experiences.

The third case study is Hazelwood School in the UK which transformed a school for children with disability into one for all children.

Hazelwood School

All three projects posed challenges to designers to find ways in which everyone could feel welcome and use the spaces. The article provides more detail on each case study and useful references.

The authors conclude that universal design played an important function in aiding architects to design for people with and without disability.

The purpose of universal design is to create symbiotic relationships between people

The title of the article is, Universal design (UD) in indoor space: Symbiosis between disabled bodies and abled bodies. The abstract uses some confusing language and terms, but the article follows universal design thinking. The links to the case studies are also worth a look.