‘‘A lthough you’re not likely to be in the frontline of the tumultuous political and sociological events taking place in the world today, as architects and designers, you’re better placed than most to make a difference to the way people live and interact.
Every day, thousands of new public leisure buildings and spaces are planned, built, refurbished and opened, creating the environments in which we spend significant parts of our lives.
The qualities of these spaces define how we interact with each other and the opportunities which are available to us. They also change our behaviour in a thousand subtle ways.
We’re seeing an increase in division and loss of understanding between generations, social groups and nations and these divisions are creating mistrust and conflict. As a result, it’s never been more important for our leisure buildings and spaces to be safe, secure, inclusive places where people of all ages and interests can spend time together with purpose.
This need is driving an interest in barrier-free design – an approach which promotes inclusivity for a diverse range of groups.
Perkins + Will’s Toronto office has just completed a new building which perfectly illustrates the power of this design approach.
Their Meadowvale Community Centre and Library in Mississauga, Canada was designed to ‘unite learning with wellness’. Facilities have been provided for all ages for social, fitness, research and creative pursuits, while accessibility and inclusivity have inspired the architectural vision, with each space designed to observe, be sensitive to and open effortlessly into the next.
“From the layout of the amenities to the amalgamation of the library, there’s truly something here everyone can use,” Perkins + Will’s Andrew Frontini told CLAD. “Design plays a vital role in fostering inclusivity and accessibility for a diverse community. Shedding our preconceived notions of accessibility allowed us to frame the centre as a gateway for the whole community.”
If the buildings we make are conceived and designed to enable peaceful, purposeful co-existence, we’ll be making an invaluable contribution to a world which is showing signs of stress on so many fronts.
And as war zones and blighted cities are rebuilt, we’ll have the opportunity to inspire those commissioning them to build barrier-free buildings to create resilient, healthy communities.
Liz Terry, editor, CLAD @elizterry