Culturally Sensitive Design

Photo Credit: University of Minnesota College of Design

Photo Credit: University of Minnesota College of Design

A “before” and “after” scheme is used to illustrate how culturally sensitive design can be implemented without necessarily costing more. This is a 2-bedroom apartment which can be inhabited by four people:

for example, a couple and two children; a couple with one child and an elder; a couple with a child and another relative; an elder caring for grandchildren; a single person hosting relatives in need; or a single person/couple who works from home. In the “before” scheme:

  • The kitchen can easily be separated from the social areas of the home if needed. One could hang a curtain to block off the view from the corridor or build a wall without having to move the sink. On the other hand, the kitchen is placed on the side of the unit and lacks connection to the social area. It is also narrow and to access the refrigerator, one would have to traverse the whole kitchen, which can create traffic jams.
  • The dining area can easily be expanded for special celebrations and large gatherings.
  • The bathroom is small and it does not allow for multiple users, creating stress when everyone is trying to get ready in the morning.
  • The two bedrooms share a wall, which limits potential for privacy.
  • The large walk-in closet can accommodate storage of things like oversized items.

The “after” scheme has been revised to be more flexible and adaptable:

  • The kitchen is moved to the left side of the unit, allowing for a more direct connection to the social area. A person cooking can easily supervise children doing homework for example or converse with guests. That person can also have views to the outdoors, which makes cooking a more enjoyable task. The kitchen can be closed or open and this option can be accomplished with a simple window on the wall that connects to the social area. If totally open, it can accommodate multiple cooks on the two counters.
  • The bathroom is now compartmentalized and an additional sink is placed in the corridor for multiple users.
  • Storage is used as a means to create privacy for the two bedrooms.
  • An angled wall allows for a sense of entry and can be used to display something important to the residents, helping craft meaning and identity. From within the bedroom, the angled wall can be used for a desk, signifying the importance of education and aspirations for the future.
  • The dining area can easily be expanded for special celebrations and large gatherings.