By: Denise Homme
Design is an incredibly dynamic and powerful tool … especially when we realize it can empower or disable people in regard to how they experience and interact with interior environments. But is it really possible to design interior spaces that are as visually appealing and as comfortable for a disabled user as they are for an elderly person, or for a child? Using design to create universal design concepts that are not only attractive but that consider the needs of all end users is certainly a provocative point of view that poses some very interesting challenges.An interior shot of the Green Mountain Ranch home
These challenges and possible solutions were addressed at Design Institute of San Diego with a two-day event on November 5th and 6th featuring universal designer Cynthia Leibrock, MA, ASID, Honorary IIDA. Leibrock, also a noted Harvard School of Design educator and author of prominent books on universal design, is known for designing, along with her husband, Green Mountain Ranch, the ultimate universal design demonstration house nestled within the commanding natural landscape of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Speaking to a room full of eager listeners at the opening event on November 5th, Leibrock shared countless photographs and personal comments about how Green Mountain Ranch came to be and how it continues to change as a living testament to the importance of universal design thinking. Featuring over 200 items or components that showcase both universal and sustainable design strategies, Green Mountain Ranch is a delightfully elegant and thoughtfully planned home that demonstrates the idea that a “design that includes everyone” approach can also be beautiful.Cynthia Leibrock discusses the many features of Green Mountain Ranch during the opening event
On the following day, students from Design Institute of San Diego and other local interior design programs came together for an intense one-day universal design charette on the DISD campus. Following a richly illustrated presentation by Leibrock on the topic of universal design in commercial spaces, the charette design teams were formed and the design challenge was announced. Quickly heading to their assigned work locations, the students began working together to solve the charette challenge: what universal amenities and features would they incorporate into the design of an airport to accommodate the needs of all travelers?
Sharing their own personal experiences of air travel and airports, the design teams began their work together by discussing what they felt needed to change about airports to accommodate the needs of all users. Acting as the Design Charette Mentor was Erin Douheret, who travels in a wheelchair and with a companion dog. Douheret assisted each design team by answering questions and sharing examples of her own travel experiences. Leibrock also visited each team, offering comments and suggestions for the design students to consider as they worked on their universal design solutions. The students worked furiously to complete their concepts and presentation boards within the allotted time.Design Charette Mentor Erin Douheret shares advice with one of the student design teams
The charette jurors included interior designer Beppie Mostert, ASID, and Aging in Place Specialists and design/build team Marie and Charles Cairn of Cairns Craft. As they reviewed and discussed each of the design solutions, the jurors agreed that each team had done an excellent job of responding to the universal design challenge; they even asked for more time to deliberate. After what seemed like a very long time to the teams waiting outside, the jury was finally ready to announce the winners. Although they assigned a first and second place and a runner up, the jurors unanimously agreed that ALL the design teams were winners in their eyes, and that it had been extremely difficult to decide between the design solutions submitted by a very thoughtful new generation of universal designers. Congratulations to first place team Jessica Mallory and Vianney Baltazar, second place team Amanda Dowell and Kathryn Turley, and runner up team Aulbrey Navarro and Jan Van Neff.Student design teams listen as charette jurors speak about each team entry
To learn more about Leibrock, her many projects and Green Mountain Ranch, please visit: http://www.agingbeautifully.org.