There’s more to architecture than having vision. How one man’s loss is transforming perspectives

Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects with Chris Downey | LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED, SAN FRANCISCO. Image courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects with Chris Downey | LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED, SAN FRANCISCO. Image courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

For many architects, much of one’s work depends upon the visual possibilities where space can transform. Often overlooked, many designers forget what it is like to design buildings and structures for the blind or hearing impaired. Universal accessibility and inclusive design methods are being discussed more and more within the architecture community. Educators, advocates and architects like Chris Downey use their experience and skillsets to transform the perspectives of architecture for the visually impaired.

Chris Downey speaking to architecture students at the University of Arkansas Image © uark.edu
he main lobby at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, Calif., one of Downey’s first major projects after he lost his sight. Photograph courtesy of John Boerger Image © ncsu.edu

In a recent 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl, Downey shares with the public how the loss of his sight helped him become more aware of what it means to build for the blind. Having been featured in AIA’s feature “Look Up” Downey finds new ways to help transform the future of architecture one day at a time.

During his interview with Stahl, Down shares some of the groundbreaking work he has developed over the years. Embracing his blindness, Downey has spent his time specializing in designing for the blind. From Duke University Hospital’s eye center, to consultation jobs for Microsoft, the unstoppable architect has even taken significant steps towards designing a better way for the visually impaired to travel through San Francisco. Through his work and unwavering optimism, Downey uses his loss of sight as a catalyst to create design accessibility for all.

View Downey’s influential inverview on 60 Minutes here.

© CNN 60 Minutes

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