How Inclusive Design Promotes Community and Social Integration

January 12, 2024

|

By 

Albert Aycardo

Architecture does not exist alone. It instead often finds itself involved with various societal factors. Inclusive design implies a formulation of an architectural response to the experiences of people from different walks of life. This response is based on a multitude of factors that can range between social, economic, cultural, and historical implications. It requires a conscious approach to designing more accommodating spaces.

Architecture’s role in promoting social interaction

The quality of the built environment plays a vital role in community building. Architecture, through form and function, can enable conversations and engagement between people. Integrating diverse activities and inclusive design breaks down barriers that create the potential for genuine social interactions.

Architecture has to know the context that it creates for its users. Spatial characteristics have implications on the building’s ability to respond to personal and social needs. Designing for this human experience involves understanding how and why people interact. Whether it be in the home, school, work, or leisure, it is imperative that the building enables harmonious living.  

BluPrint Architecture CIIT retrofit Buensalido + Architects

Spaces that capture identity

We can see how schools are primed towards learning together while also giving spaces such as libraries for more intimate studying. The CIIT College of Arts and Technology is an example of how it is possible to integrate unique interaction into learning institutions. The implementation of adaptive reusability gives students distinct opportunities for expression, such as mural painting, that promotes a sense of ownership and pride between students and their alma mater.

Introducing new possibilities with programming

Likewise for work, we can see how offices aim to  cater to a variety of needs for a productive day whether it be private cubicles for deep and focused work or conference rooms and lounges for collaboration. Mason Studio’s office showcases how workplaces can be reinvented into cultural hubs that include community functions to stimulate the vitality of the local culture and economy.  

Mason Studio by Scott Norsworthy.

Inclusive Design in Architecture

We are all inherently unique whether it be in terms of the physical, emotional, psychological, social, or economical.  Inclusive architecture answers to the needs of diverse members of a community. It bridges gaps between them in a creative and empathetic way that is considerate to these facets of personhood.

The Enabling Village. WOHA adapted a former vocational institute into an inclusive space – integrating education, work, training, retail and lifestyle – that connects people with disabilities to residents in nearby housing estates and to the wider community. Photo by Edward Hendricks

Designers can integrate these translations into a space by effectively finding common ground among the people who use them. Creating an environment that is equitable and aware of such needs has the potential to greatly increase participation in society. Maximizing the features of any spaces almost always involves a component of how accessible action is within them.

Creating equitable environments

One example of this is in designing for ease of use and safety which can be beneficial for more vulnerable sectors such as the children, elderly, and PWDs. The use of tactile materials, softer edges, lower steps, reducing effort of use, and increasing visibility are design translations that can make spaces more inviting for these users.

bi-centennial building
Continuous railing was installed in the ramp for both the upright and on-wheelchair PWD.

Building paths towards participation

Promoting mobility around an area, through designing for different modes of transportation, can strengthen solutions to traffic congestion in major cities. The inclusive design of functions that make other forms of movement more efficient and convenient can allow structures to have a wider societal impact to their nearby vicinity.

Creating comfortable and safe means of passage between places through wide covered walkways with a distance from highways can make walking more enjoyable. Adding bike racks and possibly including amenities that can support the sharing of communal vehicles, such as scooters, can empower people with more choices of ways to get to places. 

street design multiple lanes
Integrating different modes of transportation

The utility and aesthetic of a space shapes how people relate to it.This can be good or bad. The qualities of our environment can influence our actions and attitude through the experience that the place provides. Beneficial qualities are characterized through pleasant stimuli of the senses such as natural light, views of nature, and controlled acoustics. Hostile architecture that expose users to unwanted elements, such as loud noises or bad smells, can lead to discomfort and  disengagement. 

Designing places for community inclusivity and unity

Encouraging shared activities through inclusive design can help a local community feel ownership, belonging, and love for a place. When people have positive feelings about a space, they are more likely to use and take care of it, building a strong connection with their surroundings. 

sm15.10.10 community workshop AFEJB Nanai Annie passing posicle sticks

In the Philippines, a project that would exemplify inclusive design would be the Streetlight Tagpuro project in Tacloban City. The structure responds to the impact of natural disasters by introducing a space for people to collaborate. The design of the building is a community center made from local materials and is laid out in a way that makes the spaces capable of housing different functions such as an orphanage, office, study center, and clinic. The place becomes a venue that promotes efforts that are towards a common good for all by empowering the welfare efforts of the community. 

Streetlight Tagpuro axo
Streetlight Tagpuro axonometric diagram

Conclusion

Built environments can be catalysts that enable connections among individuals towards lasting relationships and stronger networks. Inclusive architecture should address the diversity of people and their needs. This integration of differences can empower community welfare and progress as a whole.

Download this month's BLUPRINT magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]