The Dis/Ordinary Architecture Project

The Dis/Ordinary Architecture Project explores how disability and accessibility can be done 'differently' within architecture, interiors and related design practices. Instead of treating disabled people as a mainly a ‘technical' problem, to be added-on at the end of the design process,  we  show how starting from disability – from the rich differences that biodiversity and neuro-divergence bring –  can be a vitally important creative critical resource. We argue that designing with diverse bodies opens up important questions about 'what is normal',  providing insights about how social and spatial inequalities are perpetauated through the design of built space, and offering valuable opportunities for change. Our mission is:


to promote activity that develops and captures models of new practice for the built environment, led by the creativity and experiences of disabled and Deaf artists.

 We do this by:


  •  enabling  creative and constructive collaborations between disabled artists, architects, educators and related agencies
  • capturing, publishing and debating this work, so as to continually inform current and future practices
  • developing the capacity of disabled artists to use their creativity to influence the design of built spaces for better access and inclusion
  • developing opportunities for design practitioners, educators and students to bring creative and inventive understandings of disability to their work.


 The Dis/Ordinary Architecture Project builds on existing and developing informal networks of talented disabled artists, as well as interested architectural and built environment educators and professionals and related experts. We work with design practices and networks, architecture, interiors and built environment schools and museums and galleries. We can offer talks, workshops, design charrettes, training events and collaborative projects.


 If you would like to get involved you can email me here 


Upwards and onwards!

The Dis/Ordinary Architecture Project has won a £2K grant from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Catalyst fund. This is to support co-founders Jos Boys and Zoe Partington, in clarifying our short, medium and long-term goals for the platform, and to set up appopriate business and givernance structures. This will give us a great framework to develop future activities, partnerships and other opportunities.

Learning lessons

Our initial Arts Council funded project ended in June 2017, with a public event at the Bartlett School of Architecture, attended by about 70 people. We discussed the activities; explored what we could learn about how to think/do disability and inclusion in much more creative ways within architecture and the built environment; and plotted many new activities. As well as the educators and students already involved, we are developing three new projects - at University of Newcastle, University of Brighton and Regents University London.


Bartlett and AA join up with Dis/Ordinary

One of the fantastic 'spin-offs' from our ACE work in 2017 has been an interactive day-long workshop and evening talk, organised as a colloaboration between the Architectural Association and the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL. Disabled artist Damian Toal - together with educators Prof. Barbara Penner and Manijeh Verghese - co-designed an 'alternative mapping' project, together with an evening discussion forum to explore ways of doing disability diffrently.

The evening event - entitled "The New Standard: where do standards come from?" had as guest panellists Deaf Artist Aaron Williamson; author of Space Invaders, Nirmal Puwar: and architect Thomas Carpentier. See the video here.


Case Study 3: Manchester School of Architecture (March-April 17)

As part of Arts Council funding for a project entitled Disabled Artists Making Dis/Ordinary Spaces, we have produced a set of three videos. Artists and educators co-partnered to prototype innovative and creative projects for teaching disability and inclusion. At  Manchester School of Architecture artist Zoe Partington worked with tutors Stefan White and Helen Ashton. They explored how to embed disability and inclusion related issues at different stages in an ongoing project for fourth year MArch students on the design of age-friendly homes. 


Go to Zoe Partington's website here

Case Study 2: Westminster University (March 17)

As part of Arts Council funding for a project entitled Disabled Artists Making Dis/Ordinary Spaces, we have produced a set of three videos. Artists and educators co-partnered to prototype innovative and creative projects for teaching disability and inclusion. At  Westminster University, artist Liz Crow (Roaring Girl Productions) worked with tutor Julia Dwyer and final year undergraduate students from the Interior Architecture course. This was a one day experiential workshop called TILTED HORIZONS, that explored how we might think differently about the interactions between society, bodies and space.


Go to Liz Crow's website here

Case Study 1: CASS School, London Metropolitan University (Feb-March 17)

As part of Arts Council funding for a project entitled Disabled Artists Making Dis/Ordinary Spaces, we have produced a set of three videos. Artists and educators co-partnered to prototype innovative and creative projects for teaching disability and inclusion. At the CASS school, London Metropolitan University, artist Joe Young (art of noises) worked with tutor Chi Roberts and Foundation students on a four-week option project, called SOUNDMARKS, investigating soundscapes in the city. 


Go to Joseph Young's website here

Bringing together disabled artists & architectural educators for creative collaborations

The Arts Council funded Disabled Artists Making Dis/Ordinary Spaces (DAMD/OS) project - undertaken January to June 2017 – brough together disabled artists with architectural students, educators and professionals, to develop new ways of working together around the design of built space. This involves co-creating prototype activities in three UK universities. It explores how to increase the capacity of, and opportunities for, established and emerging disabled artists to work in various roles across built environment related education and practice; and to act as innovative influencers on the design of built space. Finally, the project will capture and evaluate these activities so as to inform next stage developments.

Do the activities, read the books!

The work of Architecture Inside Out, as well as related projects, is captured in the publication "Doing Disability Differently: Architecture, Dis/ability and Designing for Everyday Life " (Routledge 2014). This publication explains why it is important to stop treating disability as a 'technical', non-historical and atheoretical subject in architecture. It shows how we can take a very different perspective, by critically and creatively engaging with disability as a concept, and disabled people as a diverse and complex constitutency, 

A second book offers some of the best contemparary writing and projects in this area, most completely unknown within architecture and the built environment. This is called Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader. (Routledge 2017)       

Not forgetting Architecture Inside Out (AIO)

The Dis/Ordinary Architecture Project has grown out of many previous disability-led creative projects.  Architecture-InsideOut (AIO) – which ran until 2009  - also explored how to generate constructive and creative dialogue between disabled and Deaf artists and architects and related professionals. The work orginated out of a series of commisions for disabled artists to explore built space related themes. Whilst these were fascinating pieces of work, it was clear that to make any impact on the built environment sector, disabled artists eeded to find ways of collaborating as co-partners with architectural students, educators, professionals and other experts in the field. The AIO projects centred around two high-profile events - one enabling artists and architects to co-make installation and performance work in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, and the other an experimental workshop at the Lightbox in Woking. This work ran in parallel with two other ACE-funded projects bringing together disabled artists and others in collaboration with built environment educators and students: Making Discursive Spaces and A Sense of Place!, both hosted at the University of Brighton.