Barrier-free Concept Living together

Centro Kö, Königslutter
Centro Kö, Königslutter | Photo (detail): Stantien Photodesign

Simple, elegant and straightforward solutions that function well and make life easier for everyone serve today as indicators of quality for design and architecture.

Already in the nineteen seventies the American architect and product designer, Ronald L.Mace, propagated the idea of architecture and built environments that are easily accessible, without barriers. Flexibility, simple and intuitive, as well as low physical effort were the maxims for an all-encompassing interior and product design. It was essential to avoid any stigma associated with user groups. Today, these concepts are more topical than ever and are widely accepted by society. Barrier-free architecture, Barrier-free building for all, A human-friendly built environment and a Universal Design – this approach does not mean products and spaces solely for certain groups, it means good design for all ages and all living situations.

Accessibility without barriers

With the standard DIN 18040 new public buildings or extensive building conversions and extensions have to be designed barrier-free with full accessibility. Barrier-free design is laid down in the German federal act on equal opportunities for people with disabilities and is also set out in the Building Codes of the federal states. Nevertheless, still the majority of privately owned existing buildings in Germany do not meet the requirements for a barrier-free environment. There is also a need for improvement in the design of barrier-free public spaces. Not every town or municipality has adequate funds to specifically plan mobility aids and infrastructure measures. Social contacts and community action in the neighbourhood therefore determine the quality of where we live and our wellbeing.

Projects for an inclusive neighbourhood

The Windausweg housing project was built in Göttingen in 2012 by a joint venture formed by the housing cooperatives Wohnungsgenossenschaft Göttingen and the Volksheimstätte as well as the municipal housing association, Städtische Wohnungsbau Göttingen. The individual lots were designed by different architects; by Sergio Pascolo Architects from Venedig, Bmp Architekten from Göttingen and by Hanover-based landscape architect Johanna Spalink-Sievers. On this basis a mix of barrier-free apartments for families, singles, groups of people living together, seniors’ residences and community facilities was created. With the green community areas and private gardens an urban and green neighbourhood has been established close to the city centre.
 
  • Wohnprojekt Windausweg Göttingen Foto: Olaf Mahlstedt
    Wohnprojekt Windausweg Göttingen
  • Wohnprojekt Windausweg Göttingen Foto: Olaf Mahlstedt
    Wohnprojekt Windausweg Göttingen
  • 4 Generationenhaus in Wathlingen Foto: Haslob Kruse+Partner
    4 Generationenhaus in Wathlingen
  • 4 Generationenhaus in Wathlingen Foto: Haslob Kruse+Partner
    4 Generationenhaus in Wathlingen
  • Centro Kö in Königslutter Foto: Stantien Photodesign
    Centro Kö in Königslutter
  • Centro Kö in Königslutter Foto: Stantien Photodesign
    Centro Kö in Königslutter
  • Lofthaus Stuttgart Foto: Simon Freie Architekten BDA
    Lofthaus Stuttgart
  • Lofthaus Stuttgart Foto: Simon Freie Architekten BDA
    Lofthaus Stuttgart

Greater communication between generations

The 4-Generation Park built by the municipality of Wathlingen was designed to promote the exchange between generations and more togetherness in the local community. The Berlin architects Haslob Kruse und Partner Architekten, in cooperation with the landscape architects Henke und Blatt Partnerschaft Garten- und Landschaftsarchitekten from Verden, have created a place where all generations come together. There are rooms for learning, festive celebrations and for communication and exchange. It is a lively meeting place and is designed to encourage networking between youth development and assistance, library, school, senior citizens as well as children and young people.

The building society Kreis-Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Helmstedt mbH has developed several barrier-free projects for the elderly. One of these projects is the Centro Kö in Königslutter, designed by the architects Kpn Architekten in 2012. Built on the former site of a sugar factory and in direct proximity to the old part of the town and a housing estate, this project has established a neighbourhood with mixed forms of housing. There are different types of apartments, residential arrangements and buildings, with medical facilities and services for older generations. A nursing home with almost 100 residential places rounds off the programme for living and housing in old age. The inner courtyard in the centre of the project offers shielded green space for people suffering from dementia.

Thinking ahead with barrier-free designs

A house or an apartment can be designed to incorporate barrier-free access in advance, by ensuring that the front door is wide enough for a pushchair or for a wheelchair, for example, and that there are no raised thresholds. A state-of-the-art apartment should boast an original, functional and flexible design, the areas should be free to arrange and also combinable when required. Areas and floor plans should be planned in such a way that they are suitable for different uses, and for this reason they should be relatively neutral in design. Statutory regulations and standards mostly ignore the diversity that is needed for appropriate housing.

The different apartment types incorporated in the block of flats built by the Stuttgart architects Simon Freie in 2007 in Stuttgart Bad Cannstadt, demonstrate the flexibility and barrier-free design needed in order for residents of different ages and constellations to live individually and independently under one roof together. An architecture that does not stigmatise particular user groups with physical handicaps and one that is comfortable and convenient for everyone helps to reduce isolation in our society and strengthens the exchange and communication between all generations in the neighbourhood.