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Architects, Equity and Public Space Design
August 18, 2021 at 6:30 PM
by Subikshaa Stalin
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The tactful concept of class, privilege, and social equity was first introduced to me in Grade 6 by my Social Science teacher, who then played a minute-long video that modestly illustrated the very same notions of power and social equity. The video demonstrated a room with people seated across five rows and a bin placed at the front. The seated members were each provided a sheet of paper that was to be crushed into a ball and were also presented with the clear objective of throwing the paper ball into the bin.

Immediately, the members seated at the rear rows chimed in about not having a fair chance of achieving the task as they were farther from the bin as opposed to the members at the front who easily landed their paper balls into the bin. The video identifies the members at the front rows as privileged because their closer position allowed them to have a better chance of completing the task against the others seated at the rear end. The video then ends with an edifying message and a prodigious lesson beyond price – ‘As students, one must identify their privilege of education and continue to make use of it for the betterment of themselves and those around them, especially for the ones seated at the rear end’.

With the same spirit, this article is a trenchant rendition and positive reiteration of the essential lessonthe shared responsibility of architects and designers in identifying privileges in existing social structures to constructively chisel an equitable society. In this article, Archslate discusses equity and design under the following sections:

How to define Equity and Public Space Design?

1. Why Equity over Equality?

2. What makes a space equitable?

3. A look at Anubhav - tactile gallery for the disabled

4. Designing equitable urban spaces

1. Why Equity over Equality?

The clear difference between equity and equality must be understood and recognized. While both concepts advocate fairness and justness, equality executes this by equal treatment of everyone concerned and equity achieves fairness by subjective treatment of everyone depending on their individualistic needs.

In reference to the video mentioned earlier, favoring equality would ensure that every member is seated, every member is provided with equal amounts of time and paper and eventually, all members are accommodated with equal opportunities to accomplish the task. Equity, on the other hand, would mean taking notice of the position of the members seated at the rear end and therefore the unfair circumstances that come along with it. An equitable stance would be to “bridge the gap” – to place all members at an equal distance from the bin and in some cases, even allot extra time and paper for members to familiarize themselves with the task and then proceed to achieve it. Therefore, in essence, equity is a means of equality. Equality is the ideal objective and equity is a means of attaining the said goal.

2. What makes a space Equitable?

While overlapping the intricate concept of design with equity, we must