What is transgenerational design?

There has been lots of research in the area of inclusive design in the last couple of decades, and one idea that is linked to this is transgenerational design.

Pirkl coined the term transgenerational design to refer to design that can be used by people of all generations, and as a result is suitable for people who are either permanently or temporarily disabled.

“The premise behind transgenerational design idea demands that we expand the range of product and environmental usability to include elderly people as well as younger generations – without penalty to either group. Transgenerational design is based on the fact that many physical limitations normally associated with older people are also found in many younger members of the population.” (1994:xiv) 

Pirkl suggests that actually objects should be designed with a variety of end users in mind; in fact everyone at some point in life will have reduced mobility or sensory skills, either due to age or a temporary or terminal illness or accident. “Shouldn't the kitchen, dining area, bath, laundry—or a potato peeler—be as readily used by a child with a sprained ankle, an octogenarian with an arthritic spine, or a pregnant thirty-something housewife with poor eyesight?” (2009). He does not leave this as a merely theoretical ideology; Pirkl has built a house which claims to fit these transgenerational criteria which you can see here.

One of his simple, well-executed designs is the protected package-drop entry. It has a wide, well-lit and weather-protected entry alcove, with a space at a good height to put down packages, groceries, bags and books while finding keys to get into the house. It is accessible by wheelchair and has a full-length side glass so people of all ages and abilities can view visitors before opening the door. (Pirkl 2009) This perfectly illustrates that accessible housing does not mean compromise for the majority of the population. In fact, everyone would benefit from this simple change, and most people would not even realise that it had ever been anything different. Very often the best designs are unnoticeable.

Have a look at the different design choices that Pirkl has made on his transgenerational house. Which are your favourite ones and why?

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