Access to the water and the water’s edge has always defined South Florida’s imaginary and pull on both locals and
newcomers. The imagery is clear: a bathing-suit clad able-bodied person slowly walks from the sand-laden beach to the
ocean, gradually being overtaken by waves. In another, but familiar, version of this, several able-bodied persons are
aboard a water-borne vessel, hair blown by the breeze, navigating towards the high seas. A destination is reached, the
crew plunges off-board into the crystalline waters.
A local organization, Shake-A-Leg Miami (SALM), has worked tirelessly to enlarge the community of stakeholders who
have claim to that South Floridian imaginary. For the last two decades, SALM has vowed to leverage it’s bequeathed
waterfront locale to “utilize the marine environment to improve the health, education, and independence of children and
adults with physical, developmental and economic challenges, in an inclusive community setting”. The psychological and
physiological benefits of spending time near water, and by extension being in nature, are well documented - exemplified by
recent rigorous scientific study of shinrin-yoku (known in English as “forest bathing”). Taking heed from SALM’s ongoing
efforts, this studio will look at designing access to the water for all bodies – both normative and non-normative. Two
structures, a floating platform and a cruise ship, will be re-designed to account for a larger, more rich and varied approach
to embodiment. Both the floating platform and the cruise ship have working models within which the re-design will take
place. Starting from these existing systems as constraints, it follows from this that ideas of “adaptation”, “retrofit” and
“repair” will be operational in working through the design prompts of the semester.
As noted by design scholar and disability activist Jos Boys “We need to find ways of starting from the richness that neuro-
/bio-diversity brings, from uniqueness and difference and not from bodily norms and averages. (…) By starting from
difference – from mis-fitting, unruly and non-conforming bodies – dis/ability becomes a creative generator, producing new, previously unnoticed ways into designing”.1 Working off of the documented sensorial and spatial experiences of non-
normative and disabled bodies, we will confront our own biases towards the built environment and enrich our design
palettes with more informed strategies
Image by David W. McMillan
Image by David W. McMillan
Image by David W. McMillan
Image by David W. McMillan
Image by David W. McMillan
Image by David W. McMillan
Image by David W. McMillan
Image by David W. McMillan

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