UNIVERSAL DESIGN: TOWARDS A NEW AESTHETICS

BEAUTY VS ACCESSIBILITY?
 Why not call this article beauty and accessibility? Mainly because they both are often in contradiction with each other, as much in our heads as in the facts. To prove it, the doorway of this French city hall is a perfect example:

Doorway of the Saint-jean-Rohrbach city hall. © Le Républicain Lorrain 14/01/2019

The lack of elegance seen in layouts made for persons with reduced mobiliy frequently comes from a lack of global vision: instead of creating an inclusive design they isolate a problem -accessibility-.

By way of introduction of an inclusive vision of urban design, husband and wife team Mark Leder and Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. designed, built and live in a home that is a model for universal and inclusive design. The pictures of their home could be from an in vogue architectural release promoting luxury, nature, space, comfort, lighting, and accessibility.

The pleasing and attractive characteristic of these pictures is an achievement in itself. It shows that designing a house to accommodate people of all abilities can be beautiful when seen as a benefit, a resource, an advantage and not a constraint or an obligation. This house embraces the features of a universal design, it is not disfigured by it like it is the case in the first picture.

The couple created this home after Rosemarie had a tragic accident resulting in a spinal cord injury. She uses a wheelchair for mobility. Instead of living in their previous home that did not accommodate her disability, they conversely chose to build a dwelling which brings a favorable outcome to their needs. Mark is a tall man at 1.93 meters. When seated Rosemarie is 1.27 meters tall and has limited reach to storage areas.

Rosemarie and Mark in their living room, who I would like to deeply thank for their collaboration to this article.

THE NEED: AN INTEGRATIVE WAY OF DESIGN

Thus, it is thanks to Rosemarie’s situation that their beautiful home saw the light of day. The space, the practicality, the light, the fluidness and the other numerous inherent qualities of their residence notably result from putting into practice a design framework ─ universal design (greatly helpful in these modern times).

Summed up in three words, it is the user experience design applied to space. Ronald Mace originated the term universal design in mid-1980. It is helpful to shine a light on a design concept: answering human needs with human centered design. For a more conventional definition, universal design is:

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design — Ronald Mace.

You should not believe it to be a designers’ fancy besotted by standardization, but rather to be a new urban planning and architecture design framework. The goal is to advocate for the political acceptance of inclusion and diversity. We are not ONE user, visitor, inhabitant, employee but MANY diversely shaped and differently abled beings with diverse abilities, origins, cultures, and customs.

A GOOD DESIGN EXISTS IF THERE IS A DESIGN

I am delighted with the beauty of Rosemarie and Mark’s home. It is because this home proves that we can build a private individual residence with aesthetically pleasing spaces. Functionalism (sometimes not really functioning), brutality, hygienics, and medicalisation usually cross over in design. These examples are an affront to the creative genius of designers as well as to the social project that we support. In France, our motto says a lot about the fashion we could build: liberty, equality, fraternity. Other nations share this ambition of an inclusive and empowering environment.

When taking the virtual and video tour of Rosemarie Rossetti and Mark Leder’s house at www.udll.com you will be inspired by not only the quality of the design but also by its environmental sustainable quality. Universal design combines thinking about the whole person and the lifespan of the building.

I hope that these images impress themselves into our minds and open up the scope of possibilities to be in harmony with who we are ─ humans. And you? Which projects or achievements utilizing the principles of universal design have you already encountered? Share them with us in the comments below.

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