David M. Orens
Master's Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Landscape Architecture
April 30, 1997
Accessibility in the landscape has gained increased attention in recent years, and the practice of Universal Design, rather than providing accessible accommodations as separate, distinct elements within the landscape, attempts to address social issues such as segregation by proposing an integrated accessibility and design for a diverse society. However, while proposing integration, it can be criticized as designing to the lowest common denominator and clinging to the idea of a disabled population which must be designed down to. It frequently fails to address the complexities arising from conflicts between the needs of individuals with different disabilities and lacks a theoretical framework which would place the philosophy's ideals within a broader social and cultural context. The poststructural project is posited as such a theoretical framework, and a means for evaluating the principles of Universal Design along with the social and cultural beliefs upon which the accessibility issue rests. Poststructuralism is used to challenge the idea of separate abledisabled populations on the basis that this dichotomous opposition is based on limiting conceptions of disability and fails to acknowledge the complexities which comprise the diverse fabric of society. The project is explored here as an alternative means for advancing the ideals of Universal Design within the realm of landscape architecture. Using a matrix of poststructural practices, social concepts such as normality and disability are examined and deconstructed. Ultimately a reconstruction of the paradigm, a Critically Integrated Design, is proposed based upon the reconceptualization and resituation of accessibility and social conditions.
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