Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: With a Deadline In Place, Norway Warms Up to Universal Design

At St. Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim, Norway, natural light streams through floor to ceiling windows in the lobby; patients are given private rooms with close access to nurse stations; special attention is given to artwork and color schemes; and a path in the lush garden gives patients in wheelchairs the chance to practice on varied terrain.

Welcome to one of Norway’s proudest laboratories of inclusive design—a place designed, from the very beginning, not just to accommodate but to welcome and encourage the broadest spectrum of people and abilities. The focus is on color, materials, and a connection to nature, air quality, and light. “It looks like a nice urban environment,” said Onny Eikhaug, Program Leader at the Norway Design Council. “It doesn’t look like a hospital, it doesn’t smell like a hospital.”

Also known as universal design, inclusive design—the term Eikhaug prefers—began as an unknown concept to many citizens in Norway but has come to reflect a paradigm shift, she said. “We don’t believe in one size fits all. It’s about being inclusive, acknowledging that we are different-able bodies and that across a lifetime we change.”

As a result of the observation-based research and patient input that went into building St. Olav’s, the hospital is better able to provide what patients consider their basic priorities: privacy, comfort, and security. “Guidelines are not enough, you need clear intentions. You have to know what’s the point of this,” said Ragnhild Aslaksen, chief architect of the hospital, in a video tour of the hospital.

The hospital has become an example of the Norwegian government’s ambitious plan to embrace universal design by 2025. The project, launched in 2005, is a long-term action plan with both a top-down and bottom-up approach. In 2008, Norway passed the Anti-Discrimination and Accessibility Act, which focused largely on the built environment and transportation and introduced inaccessibility as grounds for discrimination across all sectors of society.

On a practical level, Norway’s 2025 deadline doesn’t mean that all non-inclusively designed buildings should be torn down and rebuilt, but it does require that all upgrades or renovations be universally designed. Additionally, all new buildings, both public and private, must incorporate inclusive design. “It might be a utopia—because ninety percent of our buildings are built and done,” said Eikhaug. “To change the whole set up of public transportation and trains takes time. It’s more a vision than a target to be universally designed by 2025, but it’s setting a direction and it’s also committing everyone from top government to local municipalities.”

An aerial view of the new streetscape around St. Olav's hospital
“It looks like a nice urban environment,” said Onny Eikhaug, Program Leader at the Norway Design Council. “It doesn’t look like a hospital, it doesn’t smell like a hospital.” (DOGA,The Innovation Award for Universal Design)

The reach of inclusive design is not limited to buildings, but also includes public transportation, boats, public housing, and websites. And while in Norway the government has embraced the concept as a path to a more inclusive society, what was launched for the public sector has now garnered interest among the private sector, as well, said Eikhaug, citing a couple of examples whose success initially took people by surprise. One was a public passenger boat that was designed to accommodate legislation, but the boat owner soon came to realize that it was also good for overall business: with greater comfort came greater numbers of passengers; cleaning was easier; and fuel costs were reduced thanks to more efficient passenger boarding and unloading.

Another example is the Scandic Gardermoen Airport Hotel, which was built from the beginning to incorporate inclusive design—from the front door to the sheets, the reception desk to the bathrooms. “This has informed the whole set up, from the website and the food to the entrance and allergy-friendly rooms. There are reception desks at different heights, better lighting and navigation, it’s easier for everyone,” said Eikhaug. “I’m really into the business perspective because it’s driving innovation. It’s like a well-kept secret, actually, how insights into people’s lives can be translated into new concepts and innovative solutions that will fit everyone.”

Knut Hovland, the architect behind the hotel—which won the Innovation Award for Universal Design in 2011—and a jury member on award committee when St. Olav’s Hospital won in 2014, says that inclusive design is a sign of a larger aspiration in Norway, not just about design but about society.

“Regulations are now there and there are rules for how one can and must make buildings accessible; it is now a normal part of designing the built environment,” he said. “The acceptance of difference, or being different, has become much more a general sort of attitude among people. Maybe this has been part of doing that.”

Hovland’s current project, rebuilding the government headquarters that were destroyed in the 2011 bomb attack in Oslo, is more than just symbolic, even with the strict security requirements the building demands. “Our goal is to make an open and democratic space in the middle of all these requirements,” he said. “There’s a general attitude of inclusiveness in all aspects of public life now.”

According to Hovland, building—or rebuilding, when it comes to the already built environment—a democratic society is inextricably connected to the philosophy behind inclusive design. “In the buildings there was a lot of resistance to this way of thinking, but as soon as you come to terms and understand the logic of it you can use it as an advantage, an added value,” he said. As for the cost: most experts agree that inclusive design is an investment rather than a burden. As Hovland describes, it is much easier to design a building smartly—and inclusively—from the beginning rather than to later go back and fix things.

Inclusive design is about mainstream solutions—not looking at any particular group, but just looking at the diversity of humankind, different life stages, who we are at different stages, and different abilities. “It’s not about special needs—we are all only temporarily able-bodied,” Eikhaug said, citing childhood, infancy, aging, mobility challenges, broken limbs, colorblindness, and dyslexia. Like Hovland, Eikhaug describes inclusive design not just as a set of guidelines but as a philosophical approach to living. “Empathy is at the core of this approach. You have to have empathy with the user but the user can also be a professional—we are all different user groups and we all have to work together,” she said. “Innovation potential is so powerful. You get unforeseen bonuses and unforeseen side effects that you couldn’t have predicted.”

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Making 3-D Models To Recreate Somalia’s Architectural History

In 2013, Yusuf Shegow went back to Somalia for the first time in almost ten years. It was the country where he had been born, a place steeped in family history and stories. At the time, Shegow was an architecture student in Manchester, England, and as he and his father walked around Mogadishu, he was struck by the myriad styles and influences amidst the ruins and war-scarred buildings. “It made me question: What used to be here?”

Shegow, who grew up in Kenya and the U.K. after leaving Somalia as a child, returned to England after the trip with a reinvigorated fascination for his birthplace. He became obsessed with archives—finding and studying old photographs to better understand how things had once been. The layers of history were like the concentric circles inside a tree: evidence of the country’s many chapters of history, from the Islamic influence to the colonial period.

Initially, Shegow focused on archival documentation, but in 2015, inspired by a Master’s project in architecture at Manchester University, he started using the photos he had found of Mogadishu before the war to make 3-D architectural models. Shegow describes the early years of modelling as a “bedroom project,” one he never imagined would interest so many others, particularly among the Somalian diaspora.

Three years on, Shegow’s project, Somali Architecture, now includes Madina Scacchi, Iman Mohamed, and Ahmed Mussa—a team based in Italy, the U.K., and the United States—all of whom work with Shegow to better understand history and, they hope, to influence the future. According to Shegow, the project has come to include much more than nostalgia and preservation—it’s also about action and vision for the future.

Part of the appeal of the Somali Architecture project is how it uses modern technology—3-D modeling, Instagram, and Snapchat—to explore and diffuse explorations of architecture and identity. As Shegow described, “A lot of people outside of the country, across the diaspora, feel distant from Somalia and don’t have anything that takes them back or closer.” Somali Architecture aims to remedy this by examining not just buildings but the context in which those buildings were built. “You might be examining one building but you are also examining the reason why the building is there,” he said, citing the National Theater and the Mogadishu Cathedral as examples.

The National Theater, built as a present from Mao Zedong, first opened in 1967. For the next several decades it was a cultural hub in the capital, but when the civil war broke out in 1991, the theater was one of the first buildings to be severely damaged. During the war period, the building took on a new function; instead of a place for music, plays, and dance, it became a storage space for weapons. In 2012, the theater reopened its doors, but just one week later, during an official ceremony, a bomb blast killed some of the country’s top sports officials and members of the Olympic committee. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Somalia’s National Theatre. A film by Said Fadhaye from DIIRAD FILMS on Vimeo.

In a short documentary about the theater made by Somali filmmaker Said Fadhaye, Binti Omar Ga’al, a singer who performed with the legendary Waaberi band at the theater before the country’s civil war, watches archival footage of one of her concerts. Her voice is gorgeous, haunting, and at the end of the clip she is overcome with emotion. “It reminds me of the good days when I first sang this song; how I felt at the time and the people who were sitting in front of me inside the theater,” she said. “People were passionate about arts. They would queue up during the daytime. Tickets would run out as they waited in the queue and they would be told [to] come back tomorrow.”

Though the future of the theater remains uncertain, it is among the buildings slated for renewal under a cooperation agreement signed between the Chinese and Somali governments in 2013. For many Somalis, the building is an icon, a remnant of how much was lost but also how much potential remains. As Fadhaye describes in his film, the building is a “symbol of a broken nation with a big hole in its heart.”

The Mogadishu Cathedral is another structure showcased on the website of Somali Architecture. A stark reminder of the country’s colonial past, the cathedral was designed by Italian architect Vandone di Cortemilia and inaugurated in 1928. The civil war largely destroyed the cathedral, and while the tower bells and roof are entirely gone, the walls and part of the west facade remain. In addition to posting archival photos and a 3-D model of how the cathedral once was on their site, Somali architecture has proposed a plan to keep the “traces” of the cathedral—notably the bullet-ridden walls—while transforming the space into a complex that includes a public garden and a war museum.

According to the group, transforming the cathedral into a war museum would be an act of both preservation and progress, key in rebuilding a society shattered, physically and psychically, after decades of war. As Somali Architecture describes on their website, “The War Museum could be much more than just a museum: it would be a real educational hub where people can learn about the history of Somalia. History is both interpretation of facts and memory. It is fundamental to let the youngest and future generations understand the importance of history to give them the right tools to think and act well in daily life. History belongs to all of us, and considering Somalia’s future development without taking into account its history means to transform us into orphans of the past.”

This fall, the Somali architecture team displayed their work at the London Design Biennale. “It was a good opportunity to show worldwide what’s going on in Somalia in terms of architecture—what use to be here, and what remains.” International interest in the team’s work continues to grow. Following the exhibit in London, UNESCO expressed interest in bringing an exhibit to their headquarters in Paris. For now, Shegow and his team will continue to do their work, rebuilding the past through 3-D models and, they hope, actively participating the rebuilding of their country. “We’re looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us,” he said.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Paris’s Answer to Silicon Valley Is Inside a Refurbished Train Depot

Walking into Station F, the gargantuan new space in Paris devoted to startups and innovation, feels a little bit like entering a tech office in Silicon Valley. All of the requisite props for “fun” are in place, including vintage-style video game consoles, pool tables, bright couches, and neon signs. There are even potted palm trees for a touch of California.

Station F’s founder Xavier Niel deemed his project France’s “mini-Silicon Valley,” and the new space, located in the city’s thirteenth arron…