5 Ways Architects and Designers Can Make Modern Homes More Inclusive

5 Ways Architects and Designers Can Make Modern Homes More Inclusive

Throughout the past decade, human civilization has become so ‘woke’ we’ve administered a new word for it. And while this new-found wokeness derives from the quest to spotlight the inherent, yet previously ignored by many, racial social, and political injustices and behaviors in our lives during the early #blacklivesmatter movement, in more recent times it has come to stand for the calling out of all categories of injustice.

The purpose of architecture, as the ArchDaily Guide to Good Architecture states, is to ‘give form to the places we live.’ The book’s first chapter, ‘Good Architecture is Considerate’, suggests in order to improve the quality of life provided by human-designed spaces, we need to employ a human and empathetic approach.

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The contemporary design choices we’re making ensure our newest spaces are as woke as possible, becoming inclusive to all. But what about the more hidden, minor disabilities, which even those who suffer from them don’t consider as such until faced with a product or an environment that seems specifically designed against them?


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How Can Buildings Work for Everyone? The Future of Inclusivity and Accessibility in Architecture


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© Mikko Auerniitty

Architecture for Autism

Although there’s a good reason the Autism spectrum is named as such: that there’s a wide range of varying levels of different characteristics, both for the diagnosed and the not, there are ways in which design and architecture can help.

According to research performed by Autism charity, The Kingwood Trust and the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design – an inclusive design and research center – ‘the design of residential accommodation can profoundly impact the health and wellbeing of adults with autism.’ The research suggests that by providing more control over the stimuli in their own environments, alongside the provision of comforting personal and private spaces, the quality of life for those with autism can be greatly improved.

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© Mikko Auerniitty
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© Mikko Auerniitty

At the Risuviita housing development for those on the Autism spectrum in Seinajöki, Finland, for example, the architects OOPEAA have made sure to enhance the individual apartments’ connections to the community with carefully-designed shared indoor and outdoor spaces, while still giving residents access to provide gardens, control over dimmable lighting, and ‘clear organization and functional division of spaces, as well as in the colors and acoustics of the spaces,’ too.

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© Haiting Sun

Welcoming Therapeutic Pets in Therapeutic Spaces

The unwavering love between animal and owner is a fast-acting and unbreakable bond. Pets, whether furry, feathered, or scaled, provide understanding ears both to talk to and scratch, without fear of judgment, giving owners an opportunity to feel deep soul-to-soul connections when at their lowest. Providing therapy even to those in undiagnosed need, pets can be essential additional members of a household, but inviting any new resident into a carefully balanced home space is not without sacrifice. More than simply the provision of sleeping space, most pets’ daily tasks require separate solutions. Places to eat, sit, wash, and get out (and stay in) all need consideration.

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© Haiting Sun

At The Dog House by Atelier About Architecture, for example, the client’s dog took precedence over the interior, transforming the building’s basement floor with a dog-friendly bathroom and activity space, and even giving the pooch control over the color palette – favoring contrasts to ‘narrate the depth, distance, and motions of the spaces’ for the dog, as the architects put it. But you don’t need to dig out an entire basement level to live comfortably with a pet. With careful and considered design solutions such as integrated bowl cabinets, pocket security gates, in-cupboard ingress/egress flaps, and simply-installed hand showers, therapy pets can be catered for without causing undue stress and upheaval.

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© Rory Gardiner

Separate Work Surfaces for Severe Allergies

Although not often considered a disability, for sufferers of severe allergies the prospective dangers of contaminated surfaces are equal to anything else that can kill you in the kitchen. As a result, meal preparation can involve the kind of militant procedure you’d expect to find at a crime scene. With shared spaces and appliances presenting unavoidable contamination, often the entire home has to remain a restricted area for offending foodstuffs.

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© Rory Gardiner
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© Rory Gardiner

The Elsternwick Penthouse is actually two adjoining apartments knocked through into one, and with plenty of space at its disposal the family home includes not one but ‘a series of highly functional magic-box kitchens,’ share architects Office Alex Nicholls. With adjoining yet separated kitchen spaces and worktops, multiple tasks and even different meals can be prepared at the same time, fulfilling everyone’s individual culinary needs without the fear of cross-contamination.

If clients don’t have the space to simply knock through into an adjoining apartment, however, as, admittedly, most don’t, worktop space can be divided by a walkway, central island splashback – as in the Elsternwick Penthouse – or a floor-to-ceiling unit, all offering natural and functional ways to divide and separate the workspace.

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© Hey! Cheese

An Ambidextrous ‘all-sided’ home

Consistently forced to lift, hold, open, and operate with their less dominant hand, around 10% of the population feel near-constant frustration and consternation on an hourly basis in the average home – designed, unthinkingly, for right-handed people. In fact, when you start to consider it, it’s all you can see. Everything from kitchen sinks and tap mixers to furniture placement and arrangements are designed to fit into a right-handed person’s world.

This is about more than just a small percentage of users feeling put out, however, because while right-side tap mixers require right-handed operation and right-side end tables offer stage right drink stability, for example, there are many right-handed or left-handed users who prefer to hold a glass or fill a kettle with their dominant hand, or reach across their body towards an end table rather than awkwardly bend an elbow.

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© Hey! Cheese

Ambidextrous design solutions, therefore, such as centrally-positioned lever taps, modular furniture with integrated end tables on either side and centrally-hinged or open-shelf kitchen storage like in The Family Playground or One Room One Garden projects’ kitchens respectively, give residents the freedom to choose which hand performs which task.

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© Luz Images

Accessible and Active Homes for Multi-Generational Living

Is it really a family home if it’s not suitable for the entire family? In many cultures, multi-generational living has been a common solution for hardworking families, with more experienced residents taking on a large proportion of household responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare. The hierarchy of care is suddenly inverted, however, when age-related conditions begin to affect the body’s flexibility and agility.

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© Luz Images
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Courtesy of Scale Forest Atelier

The aforementioned open kitchen storage in the One Room One Garden apartment, for example, is set at a low height, ensuring continued accessibility to easily replace and retrieve items, while a specifically-arranged layout brings the apartment’s recently-retired residents the ‘same spatial experience as living and moving in a Chinese garden,’ explains the architect Scale Forest Atelier, keeping them active and agile. Meanwhile, an abundance of flexible living spaces, including a basement rehabilitation spa, remain accessible in the multi-generational Elsternwick Penthouse, connected by an elevator.

Find these selected Contemporary Home projects in this ArchDaily folder created by the author.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: The Contemporary Home, proudly presented by BUILDNER.

BUILDNER celebrates architecture competitions as an effective tool for achieving progress by fostering groundbreaking ideas that push the industry forward. “Through academic and project competitions, we are building an inclusive and diverse community of architects and designers, by promoting critical topics such as affordable, sustainable and small-scale housing to address global challenges. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of designers to propose innovative solutions and challenge the status quo.”

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