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How Gallaudet University Has Reimagined Architecture for the Deaf

The majority of our built environment is designed for people who hear, with little regard for how the hearing-impaired navigate a space. But what would a space look like if it were designed for the deaf? This video from Vox and Curbed focuses on Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts institution for the deaf, and the ways the campus is tailored to the needs of its students. By analyzing what they refer to as “Deaf Space,” the university has been able to pinpoint techniques that not only make communication and wayfinding simpler for the deaf, but to produce spaces that function more effectively and comfortably for everyone. For more on the university and how its members are impacting the architecture world, read the full article over at Curbed here.

Architecture's First Full-Fledged Experiment in DeafSpace Design

Architecture's First Full-Fledged Experiment in DeafSpace Design - Featured Image
The new residence hall on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., was designed by LTL Architects, in collaboration with Quinn Evans Architects and Sigal Construction. Image courtesy of Prakash Patel

This article, by Linda Hales, originally appeared on Metropolis Mag as "Clear Line of Sight"

The new dormitory at Gallaudet University exudes raw energy. Rough wood planks, exposed steel, polished concrete, and gleaming bamboo unite to provide architectural muscle. But the real power comes from a barely detectable dynamic. That energy doesn’t come from how the structure looks on its historic Washington D.C. campus, but how the building functions for the people inside. “It’s about how buildings structure and frame human interaction,” says David J. Lewis of LTL Architects. “The basic conditions of architecture were brought to the fore.”

The glass entry door slides open with a soft whoosh. Students ignore it as they crowd through the gap in a jumbled dance of elbows, hands, arms, and animated faces. Gallaudet is the preeminent liberal arts institution for youth who are deaf or hard of hearing, and most of its 1,821 students communicate with the expansive gestures and expressions of American Sign Language (ASL). That the students can make their way into the building without using their hands to open the door—thus halting the flow of the conversation—is cause for celebration. Here, at least, architecture has gotten out of their way.