The definition of equity in dictionaries is the quality of giving equal treatment to everyone while still acknowledging the differences between individuals. In this sense, equity means fairness in the way we act toward each person but keeping in mind his or her specific characteristics and needs. From a medical perspective, equity implies that everyone needs care and attention but not necessarily the same. It is also worth mentioning that the terms equity and equality are often used interchangeably but they mean different things, mainly because equality is based on the principle of universal rights, in which all individuals are subject to the same rules, without exception.
In the field of design and architecture, equity can be addressed at different levels. First, in terms of the profession and the workplace - like in many other fields - with issues such as gender equality and the position of women in the field, and racial equality, with the achievements of black architects. Secondly, there is spatial equity, which is very specific to these disciplines. Therefore, architecture, urban planning, and design are considered important tools to materialize the principle of equity in the spaces we live in.
In architecture and industrial design, equity means offering equal conditions for different users. Apart from projects that incorporate accessibility and the principles of universal design, equity can be found in small details such as windows at different heights in a kindergarten, allowing everyone in the room to have contact with the outside world regardless of their height. The same logic appears in the C.O Kindergarten and Nursery in Japan, with blackboards at different heights. These solutions sound simple but they prove that the architecture is designed to embrace diversity, by incorporating the peculiarities of individuals, creating equal opportunities for users.
Equity in urban planning has the same purpose of promoting equal opportunities for using the city. Urban mobility is a case in point, since the deficiency or lack of transportation may limit people's movement and, consequently, their opportunities to participate or engage in certain activities. An example of a practical urban strategy of equal mobility is the Metrocable in Medellin, Colombia, a system of cable cars at affordable prices that allowed the people in the hilly periphery to be integrated with the rest of the city.
These examples show that the notion of equity in design, architecture, and urban planning, as well as in other fields, is concerned with providing users with what they need so that everyone has access to the same opportunities using sensible and appropriate solutions for each particular situation.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Equity. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.