“The world is your oyster” are words we all like to live by, but how can the same world be depicted as an “oyster” for seven billion people with completely different backgrounds in all permutations and combinations possible? Quite paradoxically, it is the diversity that makes survival possible and ties the world together.
“Inclusive” architecture refers to any space that can be seamlessly used by all the user groups possible in that particular context. Inclusive designs must be easy to use by all types of people- children, adults, senior citizens, women, men, transgender people, the entire LGBTQ community, physically as well as mentally handicapped users- the list goes on. Hence, the main objective of truly inclusive design must be to make these spaces as barrier-free and convenient to use as possible. Inclusive spaces also have the potential to enable and empower users. Inclusive or universal design has only recently started becoming the norm, but hey- better late than never!
1. Enabling Village by WOHA, Singapore
Singapore as a city itself is quite popularly known for being inclusive and citizen-friendly in terms of its designs as well as governance. The Enabling Village is a community center built as an adaptive reuse project of the fifty-year-old Bukit Merah Vocational Institute. Since its redevelopment, the property has added value to the neighborhood and its community. It has been integrated into the pedestrian network of the neighborhood with strategically placed entrances, ramps, and spacious passages and corridors, thus enabling easy movement and access for every type of user.
2. Musholm by AART architects, Denmark
Developed by the Danish Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, this holiday and sports center has been beautifully designed to cater to people with disabilities. It includes spacious multi-purpose halls, holiday homes, and a 110m activity ramp. The building opens out into the serene natural landscape of the surroundings, thus enhancing the user experience. In 2016, this center won the IAUD Award for being the world’s most socially inclusive place.
3. Robson Square by Cornelia Oberlander, Vancouver
A sunken “linear urban park” built in a prime locality of Vancouver surrounded by civic buildings, the Robson square is a one-of-a-kind urban space that leaves no user feeling left out. The space is easy and flexible to access by differently-abled pedestrians, and the staircases connecting its various levels have been brilliantly integrated with ramps. The use of waterfalls cools down the concrete environment and gives it a softer look and feel.
4. The Friendship Park by Marcelo Roux + Gastón Cuña, Uruguay
Every single element of this park is perfectly user-friendly towards children and youth belonging to any part of the disability spectrum- both physical and mental. Free of any obstacles, the layout of the space has been designed such that there are absolutely no sharp edges or corners, thus facilitating easy movement across the park. A variety of playful textures have been added to the design for the blind. The park leaves no stone unturned- each and every play equipment is absolutely inclusive.
5. Laurent House by Frank Lloyd Wright, USA
Back in 1949, legendary architect, F.L.Wright had been commissioned to design a house for a woman and her paraplegic husband- and without a doubt, Wright was able to achieve inclusivity in his design quite astutely. The functional and sensibly designed house was accommodated with spaces and passages that were large and attracted maximum sun exposure. Furthermore, this single-story home is F. L. Wright’s only inclusive design project.
6. Bikurim Inclusive School by Sarit Shani Hay, Tel Aviv
This school, flagged as the first inclusive school in Tel Aviv, is designed to cater to each child’s specific needs- handicapped or not. By providing spaces for meditation and yoga, the architect is encouraging the use of holistic methods to nurture the children. The flexibility in the design of the spaces promotes equality amongst the differently-abled children, thus supporting the inclusive philosophy of the organization.
7. DeafSpace at Gallaudet University, by Hansen Bauman
The DeafSpace is a project implemented by the ASL Deaf Studies Department at Gallaudet University. This project is now used as a guideline for designing spaces for the deaf. The spaces here have been designed to consist of clearly visible sightlines, strategically placed mirrors, empathetic orientation in terms of its layout, and optimal lighting to provide the best user experience for the deaf. The design of the space provides excellent information about how deaf people accustom themselves to walk around a space, by interrelating their senses.
8. Centre for People with Disabilities ASPAYM ÁVILA by amas arquitectura
A rehabilitation center for the disabled, this building contains no visible structural elements or obstacles that could mar the movement of the users. The transparent partition walls also ensure visual connectivity between the rooms. Non-slip tiling has been used throughout the course of the plan, and the use of low ceilings and deep beams ensure visibility by people lying in stretchers or sitting in wheelchairs, thus creating a sense of place and making the users feel like they belong.
9. Casa MAC by So & So Studio, Italy
The architect has used textured stone tiles in continuity throughout to help the user identify different spaces a navigate through the house. To avoid any confusion, all the rooms have been accommodated around a main spinal corridor which terminates in the kitchen on one end and bedroom on the other. The linear layout of the house makes it easy for the user to identify the spaces and get accustomed to it.
10. Regent Park Aquatic Centre by MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, Toronto
Regent Park was once infamous for being home to low-income groups in the majority. However, after the establishment of the Aquatic Centre, the inherent value of the locality increased and it now is one of the city’s most loved community centers. Boasting an area of twenty-eight thousand square feet, this building is designed to be a safe space for all kinds of people. It caters to all classes and income levels. The openness and visual connectivity of the design make it a safe space for vulnerable groups of people. Quite unusually, the changing rooms here are not separated- there are common changing rooms for men and women with private cubicles, thus creating a sense of ease and belonging for the entire gender spectrum.
11. The X-Suite by M-RAD architects, USA
A series of five cabins situated in a picturesque site at the Yosemite National Park have been designed in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). These cabins are rectangular in plan, accommodated with a wooden deck on the outsidewhich leads towards a double French door, thus providing plenty of space to facilitate entry. All elements from the immense width of the rooms to the features of the shower, comply with the ADA rules, making a great user experience for the disabled.
12. Kent Timber House by Nash Baker Architects, England
This house has been designed for a couple who plan to retire here, and thus the layout is flexible, accessible, and disabled as well as elderly-friendly. The open plan and barrier-free spaces encourage ease of movement, and the material palette is subtle and easy on the eyes.
13. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture by David Adjaye, USA
While this architectural marvel consisting of massive column-free spaces has been designed keeping in mind its disabled users, more importantly, it has been designed to be socially and politically inclusive as well as exhibits a very important course of events in African-American history. In fact, this monumental space won the Beazley Design of the Year Award in 2017.
14. Modular homes by ShedKM and Urban Splash in England
The House project by ShedKM has erected a series of prefabricated affordable housing units that have redefined the meaning of the word “housing.” These housing units have identical facades, but the interiors are flexible and can be modified by the owner or user based on their needs- and hence these housing units are truly inclusive.
15. Baotou Vanke Central Park by ZAP Associates, China
This urban renewal project integrates several interactive and participatory spaces over an area of approximately ninety-thousand square meters. The wide, organically curved paths offer flexible movement for differently-abled pedestrians. Several interactive zones ensure activity engagement for all age groups.