‘Seats at the Table’ is a co-design project organised by Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Architecture Project as they look to explore what comprises a truly accessible space

Seats at the Table © Luke O'Donovan (high res) (14 of 49)

Source: Luke O’Donovan

A new project exploring accessibility in public spaces, ‘Seats at the Table’ has been delivered in the City of London.

The project includes a series of installations - co-designed with disabled and non-disabled artists and architects, Special Educational Needs (SEN) and mainstream schools, as well as makers from The Bartlett, UCL Here East. 

Located at Postman’s Park, the main design is composed of a free-standing table surrounded by chairs, hoping to explore the intersection between sustainability, accessibility and participation through a place known for bringing people together.

Seats at the Table © Luke O'Donovan (high res) (22 of 49)

Source: Luke O’Donovan

Organised by Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Architecture Project, the goal is to challenge conventional public realm design, creating a space that moves towards being ‘truly’ accessible.

Over the first six months of 2023, the team and a series of artists worked with schools across east London to co-design six chairs that cater for different accessibility requirements and enable equal places at the table. Accompanying this were several additional accessibility improvements, designed by disabled artists and architects.

To contrast against add-on accessibility elements to urban spaces already designed for those without accessibility needs, neuro- and bio-diversity was the focal point of the entire design process.

Seats at the Table © Luke O'Donovan (high res) (7 of 49)

Source: Luke O’Donovan

The co-design methodology involved collaborative workshops where young people were asked to think about how one would design a chair for someone with particular accessibility needs, including their own.

Participants depicted their thoughts on use, materiality and access through sketches, model making and presentations; the ideas were distilled by the students themselves and then built by fabrication experts from the UCL B-Made workshops.

From site to design, accessibility and sustainability have both been the central factors shaping the installations. This included the selection of the final site – Postman’s Park – as the most accessible of three alternatives, and where creative access improvements could be added.

Seats at the Table © Luke O'Donovan (high res) (29 of 49)

Source: Luke O’Donovan

The table, seats and additional installations have been made using reclaimed materials as much as possible (and will be recycled at the end of use).

Creative access elements include pre-arrival information in a variety of formats, together with some provocations about making equal spaces; resting spaces; aural, tactile and visual sensory additions; and an audio-described soundscape and BSL video to enhance engagement with the Park’s Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice.