ASL University |
the Deaf: Designing
Designing For The Deaf
By Amanda Milam-Porteous
There are several things to consider when a person designs a building.
The ideas and decisions that need to be made can be difficult for an
untrained professional. Even a trained professional can have a hard time
designing a building if she is designing for a particular culture she is
unfamiliar with. If the designers had a person of that particular
culture help with the design decisions not only would the designing be
much easier but also more functional and practical for that culture.
There is a huge range of situations that one would need to consider when
designing a school building for the deaf. The building could develop
into its full potential if the design team collaborates with the deaf
community about its functionality. According to Hansel Bauman an
architect at HBHM Architects, that is just what Gallaudet University
did. Together a design team along with students and staff of the
university “[aimed] to create an aesthetic that emerges out of the
unique [way] deaf people inhabit the world.” Bauman goes further to say
that by having the deaf design the building based on their needs brings
the idea of “Deaf Architecture”. Since this school is for the deaf it
only makes sense that the school is designed by people who know and
understand what a deaf person needs to learn. “Transparency, openness,
and visual connections are important aspects of deaf space” (Bauman).
How will this “Deaf Architecture” change Gallaudet University?
According to Prabha Natarajan a staff reported with the Washington
Business Journal, Gallaudet University started the “Deaf Architecture”
with the James Lee Sorenson Communications and Language Center. She
states that some students have decided to have the cochlear implants
(allows limited hearing), which needed to be considered when designing
the building. Some of the features of this building include, “no
right-angled walls or sharp turns, since people can’t see or hear people
coming around corners. Instead corners are curved” (Natarajan). The
placement of windows was also very important. In this building “windows
are located so they produce diffused light, not glaring light…so that
students can see what is being signed” (Natarajan). This new building at
the university is well thought out and designed specifically for the
deaf and hearing impaired. It is “an inclusive learning environment
totally compatible with the deaf way of being” (Bauman).
The design team who worked on the building focused “on a heightened
visual experience or visu-centric” says Tracy Ostroff from the Institute
for Human centered design. The inspiration of this visu-centric building
came from nature and organic experience. When these two elements were
combined the result was a building that is “natural and easy to use” (Ostroff).
The building showed exactly what the concept of “the deaf state of
being” is, “a natural and organic experience” (Ostroff).
There are so many different elements to take into consideration when
designing a building for the deaf. Although many designers work closely
with the customer when designing a building; she will never fully
understand what design is the most practical and functional for a deaf
person. Having a group of deaf individuals design the building that is
being built for them is the only way to create a building that
“celebrates deafness” (Natarajan).
Bauman, Hansel. “Deaf Diverse Design Guide.” Identifying the Principles
of Deaf Space. 9 Nov. 2008. http://www.dangermondarchitects.com/blog/.
Natarajan, Prabha. “Gallaudet University Redefines Deaf Classroom
Design.” Washington Business Journal (5 Oct. 2007) 28 Nov. 2008. http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2007/10/08/story13.html
Ostroff, Tracy. “Visu-Centric Design Drives Gallaudet Program.”
Institute for Human Centered Design. 6 Nov. 2008 http://www.adaptiveenvironments.org/index.php?articleid=600&option=news.
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