Aesthetic experience of the built environment involves all our senses: the sight of colour and form; the echo in a room; the smell of wood; the touch of handrails; the refreshing cool air on the skin, and so on. However, the definition of universal design sets no criteria for aesthetics, only stating the functional requirements that need to be met. The term for many architects and planners is still too closely associated with legislations, regulations, and standards. Buildings designed by some of the pioneers of modern architecture have been briefly mentioned in relation to universal design: Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of the ramp as an architectural element, Mies van der Rohe’s plans, the fluent transition between inside and outside, through which people may move easily and effortlessly, and Alvar Aalto’s design of details, such as door handles suitable for people of varying heights. However, their architectural works have greater potential as sources of inspiration with respect to moving buildings in a universal direction. Rem Koolhaas’ innovative design for a client with reduced mobility and his library projects are examples of how a contemporary architect has used Le Corbusier’s architecture as a source of reference. This paper refers to or includes works made by the above-mentioned architects to illustrate universal design and thereby discusses architectural qualities and aesthetics in relation to the needs of people with reduced mobility, vision and hearing.
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