The Blind Design Paradox in Architectural Design by @WJMArchitect

-by William J. Martin Architect 

Designing for the visually impaired has obvious implications for the aesthetic factor.

Designing a successful object or building is, in many cases, heavily dependent upon visual aesthetic. The Paradox of a designed building not needing a visual aesthetic, highlights the concept of “Econo-functional Aesthetic Balance“. The visually impaired building user is unable to appreciate the visual aesthetic and beauty in a visual aesthetic design factor. Focusing in on creating only visual beauty of form in this situation is not appropriate and is theoretically not relevant from the perspective of the building user.

The paradox is useful since many people tend to think of aesthetics as derived only from
visual beauty.

WJM-01

By separating the visual aesthetics from the other two factors, the “Blind Design Paradox” takes the focus off of the visual beauty of design and highlights the important role of
balancing all three factors.

Visual aesthetics alone does NOT constitute good design. The underlying point of this example demonstrates the role of the “Equilibrium of Appropriate Balance” when all three factors in the design interact.

WJM-Efab-Logo

In the “Blind Design Paradox”, the “E-FAB” between the factors is achieved not through visual beauty, but through the textural and acoustic design of architectural elements. In fact, the space could be visually unaesthetic, poorly proportioned, and devoid of any light or color. These normally important aspects of design are theoretically not important to a visually impaired building user since they cannot be visually perceived.

The visually impaired building user appreciates the beauty, not visually, but through the textures, temperature and acoustics of architectural elements while utilizing the function of the spaces designed for them.

WJM-02

The “Aesthetics Factor” is affected by refining it as the beauty of the physical texture and acoustical properties of the materials selected by the designer to create the aesthetic and balance the functional and economic requirements. In this example the primary effort is not put into creating the visual beauty of form. This factor utilizes tactile and acoustic beauty to create the aesthetics of the design.

The “Functions Factor” is affected by the design of space that needs to make use of material textures not visual material appearance. An example of this is flooring texture to communicate room type and function, wall textures to assist users in locating and orienting themselves, and even temperature and acoustic cues designed into the building. This factor considers the functional purpose of the building to make it perform for the visually impaired building user and balance with the aesthetic and economic factors.

The “Economics Factor” is affected by the re-allocating of economic resources to obtain the appropriate diversity of textured materials and acoustic cues necessary to realize the design and accomplish a balance with the function and aesthetic factors. This factor considers the reasonable availability of these materials or whether new materials or technologies will need to be developed. This should also reasonably consider the economic means of the user as defined by the resources allocated to accomplish the construction of the design.

It is important to understand that even in this theoretical example, the Formal Aesthetic Factor is not eliminated or even decreased in importance. It has shifted from visual beauty to tactile and acoustic beauty and still must be balanced with the other factors to achieve equilibrium and maximize the “Econo-functional Aesthetic Balance”. If the Three Factors are appropriately balanced the equilibrium created will transcend the sum of its parts.

This creates architectural beauty that is far more profound.

Also Check Out:

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post.  We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
web: http://fc3arch.com
Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.

Advertisements

11 Comments on “The Blind Design Paradox in Architectural Design by @WJMArchitect”

  1. Having designed a building for the visually impaired, I have long pointed this paradox out to people. Interestingly, the thought process doesn’t only limit itself to the building. It also affects the design process, because the architect must find new ways of communicating the design concept other than the traditional two and three dimensional graphical methods. For the project I was involved with we used tactile plans and models. It was a unique experience and had a profound impact on me.

    • fc3arch says:

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Bruce!

    • Rene Clawson says:

      Than you for sharing your experience …perhaps you can answer my question with regards to the ADA requirements for visually impaired ….how does a blind person find the brail directional signs ? If a blind person is in a new environment and they are alone…how do they find a brail sign on a wall or the tiny sign on an ATM machine?

      • wjmarchitect says:

        ADA regulations form a standard by which people with a wide variety of disabilities can be accommodated. The regulations were developed in consultation with various disability advocate organizations included those seeking to help the visually impaired. Your question is very important. How do they know where the braille signs are?

        I order for a facility to be fully accessible these signs, sounds and other tactile surfaces must be installed as requirements of the building code. The locations and types of signs, sounds and tactile surfacing are specifically stated in the code requirements. Sound cues are all around you but a sighted person may not be fully aware of them. As far as signage, not only does the sign have to be installed with braille lettering, but signs must be a certain distance from the floor and in certain locations throughout the building. An example of this is signage related to elevators. There are braille letters on the floor numbers and they are always located in specific locations adjacent to the elevators. Arriving cars also have bell tone associated with them. These specific dimensions and cues were established in conjunction with the visual disability advocates. These standards are taught to those who are visually disabled so they may locate themselves more easily.

        This is a very basic explanation, and there is much more to it, but essentially that is how the ADA regulations help the visually impaired navigate the environment.

      • fc3arch says:

        Bill, Great article — Thanks for the follow up! Looking forward to your next contribution!

  2. bmock says:

    Really glad that someone else is looking at the profession’s over emphasis on visual delights and form. We need to connect with all the sense to make meaningful experiences. Thanks for the post

    • wjmarchitect says:

      bmock ….. Your comment contains great insight …. In the early ’80’s, I began to question everything after repeatedly asking … “Teach me how and why this is important to someone else” The reply was always “that is not what we are here to teach you” … I became an architect to help people … I MUST know how and why so I can to explain …

    • fc3arch says:

      See Bill’s comment below….

      ” My advice is to develop a broad knowlege of the economic aspects of design. Develop a sense of what it will cost to actually make real what the art of your design represents. The basis of a sustainable design is the cost/ benefit analysis. This analysis answers the question “how and why this is important to someone else. Also remember that cost is not just about money but also about what economists call “opportunity cost”. Once the building is built, the opportunity for a “better, more appropriate design” is largely lost. Actually, it comes to mind that John Silber’s book ‘Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art” would be a good read for you.
      Also my link http://www.wjmarchitect.com/econofunctionalaesthetic.htm talks about creating the balance described in the Blind Design Paradox.
      You also might want to listen to some of my radio shows – doesn’t cost anything – http://wjmarchitect.com/efabtalkradio.htm
      Let me know what you think ! “

  3. wjmarchitect says:

    My advice is to develop a broad knowlege of the economic aspects of design. Develop a sense of what it will cost to actually make real what the art of your design represents. The basis of a sustainable design is the cost/ benefit analysis. This analysis answers the question “how and why this is important to someone else. Also remember that cost is not just about money but also about what economists call “opportunity cost”. Once the building is built, the opportunity for a “better, more appropriate design” is largely lost. Actually, it comes to mind that John Silber’s book ‘Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art” would be a good read for you.
    Also my link http://www.wjmarchitect.com/econofunctionalaesthetic.htm talks about creating the balance described in the Blind Design Paradox.

    You also might want to listen to some of my radio shows – doesn’t cost anything – http://wjmarchitect.com/efabtalkradio.htm

    Let me know what you think !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s