School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Event Items

Rethinking relationships between disability and architecture

Dr Jos Boys and Professor Rob Imrie Public Lecture

Date/Time: Thursday 2 February 2017, 17:30

Venue: Fine Art Lecture Theatre

The first part of the lecture – by Professor Rob Imrie - will outline thoughts from a recently finished European Research Council project entitled Universalism, universal design, and the designed environment. It contends that architects rarely relate their design conceptions to the human body and its multiple forms of embodiment. Where the body is conceived of, it is usually in terms of a conception of the ‘normal body’, or a body characterised by geometrical proportions arranged around precise Cartesian dimensions. How should architects, and built environment professionals, respond to the dominance of bodily reductive conceptions in architecture in ways whereby the complexities of bodily interactions with (in) design are placed at the fulcrum of the design process?

The second part – by Dr Jos Boys - will explore how disability studies scholars and disabled artists are suggesting creative alternatives for thinking differently about both disabled and abled bodies; not as oppositional and fixed categories, but as dynamic and ambiguous relationships. Critiquing concepts of accessibility as a form of ‘retro-fitting’ (assumed) normal built space, Jos will suggest that design can instead start from human difference and the richness and variety offered by taking notice of bio and neuro-diversity. She will discuss examples from her recent book Doing Disability Differently: An alternative handbook on architecture, dis/ability and designing for everyday life (Routledge 2014) as a well as a forthcoming anthology Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader.

The session will conclude with a discussion between Rob and Jos, and between both of them and the audience.


Trained in architecture, Dr Jos Boys' interests include learning spaces and the social aspects of architecture and design, explored through research, journalism, teaching, photography, community-based practice and consultancy. She was co-founder of Matrix feminist architects and has written extensively on relationships between gender and architecture.  Her work explores similarities and differences in how we articulate, contest, adapt and transform our conceptual, material and social landscapes.  Dr Boys is particularly interested in using a variety of media to open up discursive spaces between designers, educators, students, artists and a wider public - particularly to include those normally left out.

Rob Imrie is Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths University with a background in geography, sociology, and planning studies. His main research interests are urban governance and community development in cities, the impact and implications of urban policy in British and international cities, the geographies of disability and the built environment, and urban design and the codification and regulation of architecture. 

Professor Imrie's research contributes to the development of the study of disability in geography, with a focus on (a). The significance of universal design in the shaping of the designed environment; (b). The development of understanding of the meaning of the home, as this relates to bodily experiences and embodiment, and how meaning, corporeality and design issues interact; (c). Illumination of the relationships between attitudes and practices in the house building industry with reference to disability, and with respect to regulation and how this is reconstructed within the discourse of the housing supply chain; (d). Extending the understanding of housing quality beyond its (normal) reductive sense of physical or technical hardware and/or relations.