Christian Johnson, Bronze Medal Nominee (2018)

Reflection on “Access”

Access can envelop an array of avenues for discussion. But, access has arrived at a specific attribute for me throughout my education. The idea of access transcends the typical thought of “a means of approaching a place.” Architecture encourages the “means” and the “means” becomes a direct responsibility of the users’ experience. Responsibility for this access (for this approach) is out heavily on the architect and it can show the human heart and its sensitivity to all. Here may lie the key word: all. All transcends a simple approach and turns it into an offering that shows human empathy, sensitivity, and intentional crafting.

If creating architecture for all, access has to be fair to all, which requires no prejudice to any. Architecture then turns into a social issue, rather than strictly design. Design as a tool for social responsibility is an idea that I have begun to learn in my education.

Should access be easy? Obvious? Perhaps access should be purposeful; showing purpose in every aspect of the architecture proves that the architect is truly thinking about the user. It isn’t an afterthought, or something tacked on. Rather, it is a starting point that dictates the trajectory of the design. Access encourages design.

Practically, access is an impression for the user. First impression deserves thought. The sensitivity to each person’s potential impression in the design is crucial and can then enhance and encourage how he or she will interact with others, and the entirety of the architecture.

If architectural education were to be reduced to a single thought, I would suggest that architecture is more human than perceived. And that human isn’t myself. Humanity is a whole. This is why I continue to love architecture and why I am excited to start a career that cares about humans’ interaction and experiences. Through my education and projects, I have been sensitive to access, although, perhaps until now, have not fully articulated it. These thoughts are only an exploration of an ambiguous topic. Hopefully these thoughts create new room in our minds for thoughtful design.

Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)

Paper on The Neighborhood Church

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Caitlin Wildermuth, Bronze Medal Nominee (2018)

Reflection on “Access”

Access is an integral part of interior design, and that is obvious just from reading the definition – the ability to enter, approach, or pass to and from a place. As an interior design student, I have studied access both physically and through lectures and study. I have personally experienced how access relates to the able-bodied person as well as to those with handicaps, and I have noticed how navigating different spaces can impact your mood both positively and negatively. The reason access is so important to interior design and architecture is because, when done properly, your spaces can improve the quality of life for your occupants. The structural design and overall space planning can grant access to your occupants – you can give them wide doors, ample corridor space, and room to maneuver. By thinking ahead and considering the everyday life of your occupants, you can provide them with a space they will genuinely enjoy.

All people who enter a space, regardless of any form of disability, should be able to fully utilize whatever space they are occupying. Through my years of schooling and the large amounts of space planning I have done, it has always helped me to visualize myself using a space. How would I use this space if I was injured? What if I had to use a wheelchair? It would be frustrating if you had bad knees and could only get to your bedroom by climbing the stairs. It would put you in a bad mood if you were in a wheelchair and could not get into your fridge because the kitchen island was too close. These are small details to consider. Some may not consider it worth their time, but details such as these greatly improve the quality of life for these occupants.

Designing for access is so important for interior designers and architects to consider. When I consider what design is and what it means to me, it is obvious that the main purpose of design is to improve the quality of life for the occupants of a designed space. For example, I was able to experience maneuvering Judson’s campus in a wheelchair in order to test accessibility, and it is safe to say it put me in a bad mood. People should enjoy the spaces you design. These designed spaces should not make your occupants feel unwelcome, intrusive, or uncomfortable, but they should encourage your occupants and make them delight in the space. With this in mind, it is apparent that access is an integral part of design.

Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)