From First Class to Coach

The 2017 Universal Design International Seminar has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Thomas Bade (CEO and founder of the Institute for Universal Design in Munich) 

Universal design is increasingly becoming an important part of our lives. Universal design should ensure transparency and involve as many people as possible. Universal design encompasses all fields, including economic, architectural, and social design. The history of universal design can be said to have started with the Weimar Declaration. The Universal Design Forum is a German non-profit organization whose purpose is to create a safe place for all of us. We see universal design as an economic and social mission. 
There is an old German saying, “A good idea reflects the times.” Today, with rapid changes with industrial development and technology, it is necessary to seek changes in production to accommodate good ideas, and to apply universal design globally by changing all strategies and methods that have been pursued previously.
In the past, most buildings were made of wood. Wood has the advantage of allowing you to build a house in a short time, but it has the disadvantage of low sustainability because it is vulnerable to fire and wind.
At the time of the Bauhaus, standards of design and construction were defined. The definition concerned planning standards and standards for how a particular building should be built based on ergonomics. It was published as a book and used as a guidebook for builders worldwide.

House of Ernst Neufert (1929) and Centennial Building (1999)

Built in 1929, the house of Ernst Neufert is an example of universal design architecture and has been perfectly preserved to this day. The site is 10m*10m, prefabricated wood construction techniques were applied, and it was completed in six weeks. Built according to defined standards, Neuford's house has become a historically significant house, and in 1999 a building project was implemented to mark the centenary of Neufert's birth. A 12-story building was constructed on an area of land 10m*10m. The construction took a total of 10 weeks, and after the announcement of the Weimar Manifesto on Universal Design, an image representing the beliefs of the Bauhaus was displayed on the building. An important part of our beliefs is that universal design has people at its center and should embrace multiple standards, not just one standard. In addition, the core principle of universal design is that design is designed with people at the center.

In Hamburg, Germany, development projects centered on the waterfront were undertaken, and the city's area was expanded by 40%. As a result, the entire downtown area was changed. Today, with a population of 5 million, the city is being introduced throughout Europe as a blueprint for development projects that meet 21st century standards, and plays an important role in international business. An architect is developing various residential projects in the city that incorporate universal design, and we expect it to become a core project from 2025 to 2030. We are looking for ways to consider not only architecture but also industry and related laws, and are making efforts to present a flexible living and living environment in consideration of various age groups and genders.
Citizens and experts are involved in this project, asking how will we live in the city of the future? Along with this question, we consider changes in our lifestyle, changes in demographics, changes in the living environment, and the integration of creative concepts of living and working spaces. Universal design should be able to recognise economic feasibility and sustainability, as well as considering ways to ensure safety and independence for users.

Architects in Berlin maximized the connectivity of each element in the process of establishing the site development plan. A space of 20 square meters built of wood can be used as one module, and another 20 square meters of space can be connected to create 40 square meters, and another 20 square meters can be connected to create a space of 60 square meters. Among the contents of the module plan, a standard model for the disabled toilet space is included, and it can be created flexibly according to the utilization of the space, and can be continuously expanded, depending on the number of users. A building built using the universal design method was completed in Berlin this year. The project took 10 months and was completed by stacking standard modules into a basic framework. A number of construction projects that are currently underway in Germany incorporate universal design using renewable wood.


This architectural form is a universal design for residents, in terms of its flexibility in changing the living environment of residents, and at the same time, a design for the builders as well. Looking at the manufacturing process of the module, the wood is procured from the forest, and the box is imported from Austria. The building is completed by placing a box transported by a special truck near the German border on the site, and the owner directly participates in the construction process, presenting his or her opinion, and it proceeds on the basis of that opinion.

70% of Germans want to own a home. At present, it is very difficult and impossible for the low-income class, but I think that the box-shaped modular construction process with universal design can be a way to safely carry out construction and buy a house quickly.
We would like to introduce a project for a barrier-free space. Germany's 2.5 million apartment dwellers may have to change their lifestyle in the future. This project, which evolves the existing apartment for future generations, started with the question of whether it is possible to design a small space that is barrier-free. The additional design of the barrier-free space is expected to cost 8.5 million euros to build, involving various stakeholders including medical personnel and nurses. In addition, the planning project for a bathroom in Berlin and a bathroom jointly with the Technical University of Munich is carrying out a very challenging task with experts from various industries. It is a difficult task to identify and match regulations or standards in each field, and it is sometimes difficult to cooperate because the universal design guidelines of experts in each field are different. It should be possible to satisfy all users in various fields as much as possible in consideration of the various age groups, genders, and occupations of users.

Therefore, we stress the need to introduce technological solutions quickly. Although the introduction of technology costs a lot of money, ergonomic space design creates greater added value in terms of the economic efficiency of the space. We had to find economic feasibility in a wider space and needed standard guidelines for lighting, so we sought a solution to issues of house construction with the Technical University of Munich. As a result, it was not easy to realize a 100% barrier-free design in a space of only 4 square meters. For design to be 100% barrier-free, more efforts are needed. The space should create a better standard of living, but safety is also a vital factor. In order to get closer to the barrier-free standard in the future, a range of other factors need to be considered.
Lastly, barrier-free considering the living standards of users can mainly be seen in hybrid spaces where various functions are fused in a complex way. This includes flexible space configurations, such as using a guest room as an office space or using a new terrace space depending on the opening/closing method. It is a method of maximizing space efficiency by securing additional space in the interior according to space utilization.

Not without the users
Finally, there is the residential space business that we develop together with users. The target of this project is people with low income who want to live in their hometown. The project name is 'wagnis', which means 'let's try it together'. The trial was conducted on 2000 apartments in the Munich area. Residents were involved in the planning of the house, and they directly decided how and with whom to work. This is because residents are the consumer, but can introduce the concept of truly universal design when engaged in planning.

The adoption and implementation of the concept of universal design requires the participation of many people, including experts and users. This is because, in the process of establishing a plan through dialogue and implementing it, you can discover the value of embracing everyone. Without empathy, universal design is only a temporary phenomenon. Therefore, it is necessary to achieve fundamental integration and include empathy so that it can be as accessible as possible, even a complex structure. Universal design with empathy can become an essential field in society. Universal design-based architecture, products, and services are directly related to sustainability, so universal design should be used as an essential tool to solve our society's challenges for inclusion.

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