As disabled U.S. military veterans return home, they often face the challenge of adapting to a new home and finding ways to cope with their surroundings. In order to better serve the returning soldiers, Clark Reality Capital commissioned Michael Graves & Associates (MGA) to design the “Wounded Warrior Home Project.” In conjunction with IDEO, Graves has designed a complete residential environment for physically impaired veterans. The single-family prototype homes provide everything from adjustable height kitchen counter-tops to easy-access rooms and closets, creating a comfortable environment for the physical and emotional needs of the soldiers.
Text provided by Michael Graves & Associates: The design of these prototypes provides for the needs of a varied group of soldiers who have been injured and/or adversely affected by their military service. Universal design principles are utilized to serve soldiers with varying conditions including but not limited to paralysis, blindness, loss of limbs, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Two houses will be built in 2011, opening on November 30, 2011.
There are twenty additional sites on Fort Belvoir that are planned for Wounded Warriors Homes, with hundreds of additional sites located on military bases across the country. Clark and MGA hope the project will contribute to a national dialogue about our need to properly serve those who have served our country. In addition, each house will function as a design laboratory, whose progress will improve the lives of soldiers, as well as the general aging American population.
MGA, for its part, brings to the project everything it’s learned in 47 years of product and building design. Extensive in-studio research insures that every sliding door, toothbrush, and Smartphone-controlled air conditioner in the Wounded Warrior Homes works the way it’s supposed to. At the same, Graves’ original visual sensibility gives the houses and everything in them an elegance and style usually missing in the patient-care space.
Everywhere, the architecture and design of the homes demonstrates a unique insight into the lives of those with limited mobility—and the reason why is simple: it was all created by someone who knows the challenges that people with special needs have to face. Michael’s struggled with them for eight years, and much of his recent work has been devoted to designing newer and better everyday products that are as beautiful as they are easy to use.
IDEO conducted in-depth interviews and observations of 10 civilians and 20 injured soldiers in order to gain a deep understanding of how disabled active duty service members resume civilian life. Listening to the stories of veterans and their families, IDEO realized that there isn’t one collective experience, but rather “seven dualities or contrasts” that define the complex needs of these soldiers.