Planning for Human Diversity: Design Patterns of Universal Design

Lilian Müller, Daniel Wojahn, Ida Sandström, Per-Olof Hedvall


Ensuring the conditions for an inclusive society in the face of human diversity places various demands on the built environment. Planning is essential for accommodating a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

This article examines the presence and absence of Universal Design (UD) in contemporary urban planning and construction in eight new or remodelled Swedish building and public space projects. The projects were studied in-situ and via documentation from the planning and building process.

The findings show two ways in which UD is present. The first is a pattern where people are not separated from each other, whilst the second is a pattern of facilitating equal use by placing low demands on users abilities. It was revealed that UD was implemented more in remodelling projects than in new constructions, which instead created new inequalities through categorisations of users and high demands on users abilities. They were also linked to an imbalance between green and social sustainability.

We argue that a change of mindset is pivotal for implementing UD. Human diversity must be a consideration throughout planning and building processes, and creating a sustainable society requires UD. This article contributes new knowledge regarding patterns characterising such a mindshift.

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