"The building should not limit but adapt to its users, its users give the building life." Sarah Stevens
Inclusive Design – Designing Away From The ‘Average’ By Instead Giving Everyone A Voice
My work revolves around the issues of designing using the ‘average’, which has been used as a form of guidance to design spaces or objects by generalising everyone to fit into them. These universal approaches have limitations in that they reflect on ideal bodily representations based on ableist and masculinist attitudes and lacking in body diversity within gender, disability, age, etc. This has caused people who are outside the mainstream of society to feel excluded from the design by not fitting into these ideal body assumptions, which can be seen historically and in the present time.
This concern arose from my first term research and investigation around Brighton seafront by identifying that this environment brought unequal experiences for people where some would feel included and others excluded when using the same circulation routes. This led to my first term project, which stepped away from designing using standard measurements and challenged universal objects. This involved taking an A2 portfolio and changing it to adapt to fit my body and address my needs, which formed something unique and true for myself proving how much one body can change the design. Moving to the second term project, it was understood that the perfect body representation in design does not exist as the average will never represent the majority. The question was how we should be designing in the future without the average to create equal and inclusive environments. The final building design centred on a people’s forum being a platform to discuss the issues of the ‘average’ – this space encourages the act of freedom of speech or expression to let the public and experts talk about their experiences in design and involve the legislative/policy members to adapt the regulations. The rest of the building acts as a large public foyer that allows people to gather for meetings, research, and experimentation with the spaces. The building has adaptive qualities within its structure allowing it to be taken out for use and stored away to make space – this is an important aspect of the building as it doesn’t limit its users but adapts to them, and its users give the building life by changing the building form through daily activity and circulation. The building design also has non-segregated circulation routes, toilets, and seating to create more inclusive and equal spaces.
I learned in these projects how difficult it is to design something that tries to meet all needs, as it is an impossible task for one person to understand all experiences. Therefore, it is a task that everyone should be involved in to begin to fully understand issues others face. It is a matter of identifying and critiquing environments that one will encounter daily and understand that we must not keep adapting and accepting excluding spaces but challenge them.