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How architecture changes for the deaf

We live in a world made for people who hear. But what would our cities looks like if they were designed for the deaf? DeafSpace is an emerging approach to design and architecture that is informed by the unique sensory experience of those who don't hear. In conjunction with Curbed's feature on DeafSpace, we visited Gallaudet University to see what DeafSpace looks like in action:

People who hear might not realize what role sound plays in everyday life. If you want a passerby's attention, you shout his name. If a professor needs to explain a math problem, it's not a problem to talk while writing concepts on the board.

But people who are deaf and hard of hearing depend on different senses to navigate everything from social interactions to academics. The concept of DeafSpace uses that experience to inform the design of environments.

Gallaudet University — a school located in Washington, DC, and the world’s only institution of higher education for the deaf and hard of hearing — is in the process of modifying the historic university’s campus to create a more inclusive environment for the deaf student body.

Hansel Bauman, the architect behind DeafSpace, has redesigned parts of Gallaudet's campus around five basic principles: space and proximity, sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and color, and acoustics. DeafSpace is the project that has grown up around Bauman's work and is quickly gaining recognition both inside and outside deaf communities.

DeafSpace visual elements

On our recent visit to the campus we sat down with Derrick Behm, a former student who now works in the Office of Campus Design and Planning. He walked us through some of the background of the DeafSpace project while also giving us a demonstration of how these concepts play out in action, which you can see in the video above.

For a more in-depth look into the history, traditions, and design elements driving DeafSpace, read Amanda Hurley's feature about DeafSpace on our sister site Curbed.


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