DeafSpace: Deaf vision meets architecture

Door and window cultures are an old, informal, culturally sweet metaphor referencing to two cultures or behaviors of hearing and eyeing people respectively about how they and their world interact in different ways.

Wall, or originally door, culture is a metaphorical symbol of hearing people who can talk to each other through doors but cannot see each other. Whereas, window culture is a figure or speech that Eyean people can talk to each other in visual-spatial modality through windows that hearing people cannot communicate well through windows.

"[Deaf people] are first, last, and all the time the people of the eye." -- George W. Veditz, 1910.

DeafSpace is an architectural concept tailored to Deaf visual-tactile experience in space. The term DeafSpace is often associated with Gallaudet University's design guidelines. Buildings, hallways, and other spatial arrangements are designed to Deaf people's way of seeing and being in their environment. Though, the idea and practice of Deaf space in general has been around long before.

DeafSpace arrangements and designs

At deaf schools, you may see a typical horseshoe seating arrangement in classroom, announcements in ASL via intranet TVs, light strobe for fire, round tables in cafeteria, and so on.

At restaurants or banquets, a centerpiece on a table is typically moved away because it interferes visual field between two signing persons.

At a party, it's not uncommon to see Deaf people gathering or socializing in a kitchen. The primary reason is the light.

In a Deaf house, you may see a light flasher for doorbells and phone rings. In Deaf family homes, you may see some certain arrangements. If you see a light flashing in a room through a window in the neighborhood, you know you may have a Deaf neighbor.

When my Deaf parents purchased a land to build a house in the 1990s, they requested the builder to install a wire system specifically for doorbell and phone ring. In each room, there are two electrical sockets: one is a standard that you're familiar with and the other one is for doorbell and phonering by simply plugging a lamp into them that flash when ringing.

For architects and enthusiasts, visit the latest buildings on campus at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. They built or renovated buildings with DeafSpace guidelines in mind, such as light, color, acoustics (vibration), mobility, proximity, transparent elevators, and so on.

DeafSpace Elements

Hearing architect Hansel Bauman initiated the DeafSpace Project in 2005 with the ASL Deaf Studies Department at Gallaudet University. He's the brother of Dr. Dirksen Bauman who is a professor of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University.

Proximity, acoustics (vibration), lighting and shadow, color, and transparency are essential elements of the environment in Deaf space.

Related posts

You may be also interested in Window and Wall cultures / ASL Zone / Deaf Lens: a cinematic space of Deaf filmmakers.

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