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Rethinking Retrofit: Re-Imagining the Built Environment to Affirm a Positive Identity for Disability and Impairment

Part 2 Dissertation 2021
Christopher Scarffe
Royal College of Art | UK
As the architectural industry tends towards adaptation over tabula rasa it becomes ever more important to re-examine the practice of retrofit. Using disability theory alongside the affirmative model of disability and impairment as a hybrid theoretical framework, this dissertation critically evaluates the structures and systems that govern the practice of retrofit and the social realities they create for disabled bodies.

The intersection of retrofitting and disability will be explored through a series of case studies: an RIBA CPD on inclusive environments led from a commercial perspective; ‘stop-gap’ installations outside the Brunel Lecture Centre; and finally, a comparative analysis of two projects, one which makes diverse bodies the core principle throughout, and one which applies minimum accessibility standards at the end of the process. Employing a hybrid theoretical model in examining these case studies reveals how a designer’s perceptions can directly impact how we strive to accommodate differing social and spatial needs.

Ultimately, this dissertation argues that if we are to truly live in an equitable world then the removal of physical barriers alone is inadequate. We must also seek to deconstruct the social and cultural barriers that marginalise disabled bodies by designing a built environment that celebrates difference.

Christopher Scarffe

Korina Zaromytidou
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