Michael Graves & Associates unveils homes for wounded soldiers in Fort Belvoir
This year architecture has happily addressed the needs of the many rather than the fortunate few. Young rising stars have put their talents to such vital causes as low-cost housing, sustainable communities, and disaster relief. And major cultural institutions, like MoMA, have mounted exhibitions that have re-focused architecture by addressing the needs of at risk and underserved populations. One such population that has been long overlooked is that of the wounded soldiers who return from war with disabilities that make doing everyday tasks such as preparing light meals or getting dressed in the morning a monumental undertaking. One person who knows this landscape well is architect Michael Graves.
Paralyzed by an infection that has left him wheelchair bound, Graves not only has a sensitivity to and a personal stake in making the world better for those who are mobility challenged, he also has the talent and the celebrity to make major strides in the field of universal design by raising its profile and bringing to the masses universal housing, just as he brought good design to everyone with his groundbreaking work for Target.
Graves’ current focus and passion is designing fully accessible homes for wounded soldiers, a project that has implications far beyond the population for which they are designed. If all goes well, these homes could dramatically impact the lives of an aging American population by ushering in a new model for senior housing that is dignified, more gracious, and far better designed than what we have now. But for now, Grave’s focus is on rolling out these model residences for wounded soldiers and their families.
A collaborative effort with many partners, including Michael Graves & Associates (MGA), the Army, Clark Realty Capital, and IDEO, The Wounded Warrior Home Project at Fort Belvoir, Virginia provides fully accessible housing for war wounded soldiers. MGA has designed two, 3,000 sq ft model residences, the Patriot Home and the Freedom home that will serve as a design laboratory so to speak; prototypes for approximately 20 other homes at Fort Belvoir and hundreds more across the country.
Each home is flexibly designed with adjustable height kitchen countertops, easy access rooms and closets, and each incorporates technologies that make life a little easier for this population such as window and door sensors, entry door intercom, and video monitoring system to support independent living. Like the architect’s custom designed houses, these homes have a welcoming entry, in this case with large porches with an open roof.
“It has been an honor for me and my team to work on these homes with Clark Realty Capital and the Army,” said Michael Graves. “As a paraplegic myself, I was inspired to rethink how the design of comfortable, well-functioning living spaces could better meet the unique needs of our wounded military. Looking at these homes, you would never know that they are designed for the disabled. These are homes that anyone would be proud to live in. That was the goal we set, and I think we’ve achieved that and more.”
Indeed, like the French architect Le Corbusier, who advocated for universal design, devising a modern version of the golden section that subdivided the format in relation to the proportions of the human figure, a system of proportions called the ‘Modular’, Michael Graves has given new meaning to the term universal design. Through this project, he stands to dramatically alter how aging adults and people with disabilities will live in the future.