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Gentle Access

December 30, 2014


“Handicapped Ramps” sound as bad as they look: more akin to compromise and cattle than the opportunity to create a kinder, gentler access to a welcoming harbor, or just to a place that is useful.

Better put, a “Gentle Access” mindset makes approach and release from a building a continuity rather than a series of adjustments and distractions. “Handicapped Ramps” are a rude reaction to government fiat, “Gentle Access” is a simple human desire met by thoughtful unpretentious design.

Since codes are often the reason to accommodate the need for anyone to get into any building, a licensed architect is often necessary. Since funding must often be raised, a design is needed to focus generosity. Since our population is aging, the need is more than a code requirement its an ethical imperative if we want buildings to be useful.

Architecture is the art of making the practical aesthetic. Getting into a place should not be more important than the place gotten to. The prize must draw the eyes, the motivation to obtain it should not be distracted by the method of accession. “Gentle Access” allows the act of  coming in or going out to be a natural flow, versus an mental or physical challenge.

I have never lost that love of small work and openness to working for those who have no money for design fees for necessary projects, like handicapped accessibility, so Universal Design projects continuously find their way into my office. I just choose to render them “Gentle Access”.

I have executed perhaps a hundred places where accessibility is either required or devoutly desired. After a decade or 2, the gist of successful “Gentle Access” became clear:

1) No second class segregation of “able” from “disabled” – one way, fully beckoning and easy on the eyes for everyone.

2) No cattle chutes: open, simple or zesty rather than shunting, binding, rude sluices – lightly curving is better than zig-zagging – kinesthetics matter.

3) Use dirt: not wood, steel or concrete: using grade manipulation versus overt construction makes the ascent or descent visually effortless.

4) Protect upon arrival – gable rooflets shelter and shade, pre-empt shoveling and water down the back: but also provide a nighttime light scoop and daytime shadow play to give those approaching a visual focus to make access desirable, versus grudging.

Here is an array of “Gentle Access” designs: invisible where possible, beckoning, sheltering and silently assisting in the simplest of functional requirements: getting in (and out):


One Comment leave one →
  1. Janice Gruendel permalink
    December 30, 2014 6:21 pm

    lovely Janice M. Gruendel, Ph.D., M.Ed.   Fellow, Zigler Center in Child Development & Social Policy,Yale University Founder/Principal, Gruendel & Associates, LLC 28 Juniper Point Branford, CT 06405 Home Office: 203-481-9940 Mobile:  203-824-4766 Email:

    From: Saved By Design To: Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2014 2:53 PM Subject: [New post] Gentle Access #yiv2180381897 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2180381897 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2180381897 a.yiv2180381897primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2180381897 a.yiv2180381897primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2180381897 a.yiv2180381897primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2180381897 a.yiv2180381897primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2180381897 | Duo Dickinson posted: “”Handicapped Ramps” sound as bad as they look: more akin to compromise and cattle than the opportunity to create gentle access to a welcoming harbor, or just to a place that is useful. Since codes are often the reason for the need, a licensed architec” | |

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