Back to Program: April 25 | April 26 | April 27 | Pre-recorded Sessions

Blind Design: Extraordinary Outcomes of Speculative Space-Making

Andrew Gipe-Lazarou

Date: April 26, 2023

Workshop: 10:10am-10:25am 

Q&A: 10:25am-10:35am


A partially-submerged ISS module with a helicopter pad, and central staircase illuminated by phosphorescent jellyfish.

A floating disk-house with glass ceilings which shades itself by rotating away from the sun.

A radiant building plan following the trajectory of the moon with guiding water features and a star-gazing tower.

In the spring of 2022 + 23, a group of visually-impaired learners, led by faculty and students of the Virginia Tech School of Architecture, reimagine the future of the built environment. Tasked with the design of a private residence, they imagine, draw, and model extraordinary spatial conditions which aspire to a total sensory experience. Their work is informed by immersive learning techniques, instruction in emerging building technologies, and the input of participating visionaries like Chris Downey, practicing blind architect from California, and vision-impaired Canadian artist and disability activist, Carmen Papalia.

The Blind Design Workshop presents the art of building as an exercise for the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle and maintains design for disability – for alternative modalities and sensory perspectives – as an opportunity to critically explore the depth and dimensions of space-making. This lecture will present the outcomes of the workshop, drawing critical conclusions about the impact of spatially-empowering the blind community and calling into question the ocular-centrism of conventional design practice and education.

Presentation slides: PPT | PDF

About the Speaker

Andrew Gipe-Lazarou

Dr. Andrew Gipe-Lazarou (MArch Harvard, Ph.D. NTUA) is a designer, educator, and researcher interested in the intersection of accessible space-making and phenomenology. His work includes contributions to the international Elements of Architecture series by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, field work and articles about the role of sensory learning in design education (University of Cambridge, 2019), and ongoing research about the role of alternative modalities on practice and education (“Ocular-centrism and the Future of Design Education”, Future Bodies Conference, 2022). Dr. Gipe-Lazarou’s work is informed by more than half a decade of international leadership experience of design education initiatives for persons who are blind or vision-impaired (including The Diakron Institute’s “Multisensory Immersion in Abruzzo National Park”, Virginia Tech’s annual “Blind Design Workshop”) and professional accessibility credentials issued by the IAAP.

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