Architectural design In Dialogue with disAbility (AIDA)

This research project started from the observation that, because of their specific interaction with space, disabled people are able to appreciate spatial qualities or detect misfits in the environment that most architects or other designers are not even aware of. This holds for sensory impairments such as blindness or low vision, but also for mental conditions like autism or dementia. The experiences and subsequent insights of these disabled people, so it is argued, represent a considerable knowledge resource that would complement and enrich the professional expertise of architects and designers in general. This argument formed the basis for a methodological and theoretical exploration of a multisensory design approach in architecture. On the one hand, a series of retrospective case studies was conducted to identify and describe the motives and elements that trigger or stimulate architects attention for disabled people’s multisensory spatial experiences when designing spaces. On the other hand, the project investigated experimentally in real time to what extent design processes and products in architecture can be enriched by establishing a dialogue between the multisensory knowing-in-action of disabled people and the expertise of professional architects/designers. In this way, the project aimed to develop a more profound understanding of how inclusive design can be realised in architectural design practice. At least as important, however, is its contribution to innovation in architecture tout court. The research results are expected to give a powerful impulse to quality improvement of the built environment by stimulating and supporting the development of innovative design concepts.



  • Funding Agency: European Research Council
  • Principal Investigator: prof. Ann Heylighen
  • Team Members: Catherine Elsen, Greg Nijs, Jasmien Herssens, Lisa Wastiels, Megan Strickfaden, Peter-Willem Vermeersch
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