Abigail Breckner, Bronze Medal Nominee (2018)

Reflection on “Access”

Hosting the Hundreds

As a designer my job is not to design for specifications, city ordinances or code books, my responsibility is to design for people. This sobering reality awakens the notion that instead of a couple hundred pages to keep in mind, I have a couple hundred thousand people to keep in mind. Everyone requires special attention and this is something to remember when designing. Access must be provided for the elderly, children and handicapped individuals, to name a few. There are certain guidelines in place such as the ADA and the IBC which offer a gained perspective on the needs of certain individuals. These should be used in a creative manner along with a thankful heart since the designer can now rest at peace knowing they did everything they could do to provide an operational environment.

Access also now involves more than simply the human body. As discussed in the class Architecture of Cities, so much of the world we live in is designed around the car. Therefore, access should be easy for all those approaching, whether on foot or wheel. By easy I mean simple to navigate, not boring. The truth is people operate on habits and if a certain building does not accommodate their car by way of parking or drop off locations, they will simply not go. As much as we often think this will promote more walking, it really, in the end, causes them to go elsewhere. People have the choice of where and what to use in most cases. There are very few buildings that everyone must use. The exception would be civic buildings, which should be the most obvious of all the building types since so many visitors will be using them. People, in general, have options and will choose what is easiest. Life is difficult enough, people do not need to be confused by the approach as well. I think we can make it easier for those on foot, however, we cannot neglect other approaches because it would be denial to think everybody would use the building all the time how it is presented.

In my own design process, I often create scenarios as to why and who may be using the building. I think about where a son would drop off his elderly mother. I think about where a young couple on their first date would enter. I think about the businessman who is late for his meeting. I even think about the mother with three young children. This way of thinking changes my perspective and reminds me that I am not designing for myself, that would be lonely. I am designing to host the hundreds. As a good hostess, I strive to provide for the needs and comforts of all guests so that all walks of life can simply walk in.

As I progress in my career I will continue to carry this thought process with me, and I can only hope it will continue to open my eyes.

Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)

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