Universal design: Antidiscrimination challenge

Mária Samová


It is inevitable to apply new approach in design of physical life environment, in particular, within the context of human ecology and respect for basic human rights and freedom. Architecture, urban planning and design, as well as civil engineering and industrial design are fields that fundamentally affect the quality of our environment. The non-discrimination environment is an indispensable condition for inclusion of disabled people in everyday life. Universal design is the new method for creating of such helpful and accessible environment for all people.

Free use of public urban and architectural areas collides with one basic problem. The future users of public areas are anonymous to the designer therefore he should count with their diversity (physical, motion, sensual, and mental) since the first phase of his conceptual creative process.

Understanding the man as a unique human being having different qualities that cannot be made average appears hand in hand with democratisation of human society. Democracy as a cultural and social phenomenon declares such values like freedom, law and dignity for everybody without regard to age, race, confession, or health condition. Acceptation of diversity of people is a cultural deed that perceives every man as a complex being with extremely diverse bodily, sensual or mental qualities.

At present, design of non-discrimination areas is an imperative for every architect humanist, supposing that he himself is a follower of such values and that he has knowledge of possible barrier free solutions that are often even more aesthetical. Numerous notable architects have included the principles of universal design and these principles are clearly expressed in their works (N.Foster, J.Nouvel, I.M.Pei, P.Cook, B. van Berkel, R. Koolhaas). They, no doubt, did not make concessions from their artistic and aesthetical demands and yet they reached barrier free aesthetics in their architecture. It was because they included the idea of barrier free design into their very first phase of the design process.

Numerous initiatives arose at the Faculty of Architecture, Slovak University of Technology in this respect. They were initiated by teachers and researchers. After the basic social changes in 1989 has our faculty become, thanks to the supporting management, the only architectural university that fills the ‘European Resolution Res AP (2001) on the Introduction of the Principles of Universal Design into the Curricula of All Occupations Working on the Built Environment’. The all faculty workplace called the Centre in Design for All at FA STU is the member of European Institute for Design and Disability EIDD – Design for All Europe. It works on several research projects (MVTS, VEGA), educational project, (IP, Erasmus) and organises participation of students on international student competition Schindler Award – Access for All. This effort results in professional publications as well.

Keywords: universal design, public space, diversity, specific needs, CEDA, architecture