Virtual Mellon Forum: Disability

Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 12:00 pm
Princeton Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities
Program in American Studies
Humanities Council
Center for Collaborative History
Department of Art and Archaeology
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
School of Architecture

Graphic for Spring 2020 Mellon Forum No. 3: Disability

In accordance with University policy on COVID-19, this forum will be held online via link to a Zoom session posted on the event page on the Princeton Mellon Initiative website.

Staged Encounters: Embodiment, Architecture, and Urbanism

Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment


Design’s relationship to disability is commonly discussed through the concept of universal design. However, the divergent approaches that operate under the term universal design point to the different stakes, ideologies, and politics that undergird design’s potential relationship to disability. The concept of universal design can be used to foreground disabled users and disability rights activism, drawing connections between the barriers faced by disabled users and the barriers faced by other spatially marginalized and excluded communities. Or the concept of universal design can steer away from disability-explicit design toward design for an imagined but unspecified “everyone.” In this conversation, the panelists will consider how an explicitly disability-focused design might differ from design that attempts to eliminate disability or build for an imagined “everyone,” and how the built environment might already reflect or challenge assumptions about the needs, abilities, life conditions, and desires of bodies. 

The Spring 2020 Mellon Forum asks how does the built environment influence how we perceive and feel race? How might design work for and against the disabled body? What are architectural design and urban planning’s political capacity in the 21st century? This forum series privileges the site of the body (in its raced, gendered, and abled aspects) to think through what the role of architecture and urbanism is in the 21st century. Rather than offering design-based solutions to social issues, it thinks of how architecture stages the body and, thus, impacts how we frame and interpret social inequality. It attends to how design influences the way we understand diversity, discrimination, and inclusion. It explores the embodied ways marginalized communities perform with and against the built environment. It looks at the social, economic, and political contexts that allow the built environment to manifest its own order, logic, and effects.

The Spring 2020 Mellon Forum is organized by Kinohi Nishikawa, Department of English, and Ashlie Sandoval, Princeton Mellon Fellow.