Undesigning the Urban Disability Parkscape
In this paper, we discuss the design, undesign, and redesign of the urban disability parkscape. The parkscape refers to homogenized and branded conceptual, built and manufactured spaces and their contents, which serve to identify, contain and separate care receivers from the central corpus of the city. We begin with an analysis and critique of park design created through the operationalization of accommodative and universal principles. Of particular note is the absence of aesthetics from the seven principles of universal design and its descendants, inclusive, and accessible design. Omitting choice and aesthetic design imposes park identity and brands the user through simple, surface object reading.
We then follow this critical discussion with principles, histories, and narratives of undesign, foregrounding how they imply guidance for redesign which does not fall prey to refilling the undesigned void with “what has been.” Five principles for caring urban redesign; seamlessness, elegance, skepticism, proximity, and polyphony, are then proposed and illustrated. Seamlessness, defined as continuity smoothness, congruence, fluidity, and coherence, escorts urban designers away from strategies, ideas, and creations that carve humans into segments, thereby leaving the caring urban landscape clear of fencing and thus fertile for symmetry. Elegance refers to precision, quality, efficacious labor, and enduring communicative beauty. Redesign skepticism, following the model of philosophical skepticism, is ongoing and exhaustive questioning, eliminating the potential for complacency or acceptance of a single monistic truth. Proximity directs redesign closer to the user, beneficiary, typical urban citizen. Polyphony depicts artful cooperation, choreographing a graceful blend of sometimes-disparate perspectives without demanding full consensus.
We conclude with the application and illustration of the five redesign principles to urban caring environments in which in which people of all shapes, sizes, functionality, persuasions and needs fit within democratically negotiated civility without being remanded to a segregating conceptual or concrete parks cape.
Gilson, S.F. & DePoy, E. (August, 2014). Undesigning the urban disability parkscape. Paper presentation at the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society, London, United Kingdom. (juried)