Age-Focused Design - A Pedagogical Approach Integrating Empathy and Embodiment.

Secur.Biance Adaptive Environment Prototype by Emma McAneny & Lauren Kennedy, ARC 494/595 Undergraduate and Graduate Seminar taught by Sarah Gunawan 

Julia Jamrozik, assistant professor of architecture, and Sarah Gunawan discuss an innovative approach to age-foccused design.

Architects seldom design for themselves, yet in the course of studying architecture one is rarely presented with the opportunity to design for a real client. The abstract nature of this education model leads to a focus that typically prioritizes formal or technical design exploration and de-emphasizes the role of the user. While Universal Design centers human bodies within design practice, the broad and often vague ambition of universality is difficult for students to engage within an academic context. This paper argues that approaching Universal Design through the lens of human age emphasizes the physical, sensorial, and cognitive modes of spatial understanding of the young and old and offers a focused perspective through which to address difference and diversity in architectural education. This paper outlines a pedagogical approach that prioritizes human embodiments, over physical bodies, and integrates empathic understanding as critical to an inclusive, human-centered design methodology. It will discuss how the approach emerged from design seminars and studios taught in the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo and was tested through exercises that challenged students to research, empathize with, and ultimately design for the specific needs, abilities, and desires of individuals at the limits of human age.


Julia Jamrozik, Assistant Professor
Department of Architecture

Sarah Gunawan
Department of Architecture


Studies in Health Technology and Informatics

Date Published