RIBA Perspectives in Architecture

Perspectives on Architecture: Selwyn Goldsmith and the Architectural Model of Disability at the RIBA.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) often, through their education program, provide a platform for presenting emerging architectural research and debate.  As part of the RIBA Perspectives in Architecture lecture series, Lesley was invited to present her work on Selwyn Goldsmith (funded by an RIBA Research TRUST Award) and give an overview of the research we are currently undertaking within the BESiDE Project. 

In explaining the aim of such lectures and debates the RIBA state:

‘These events provide opportunities for speakers and audience members to contribute to sophisticated debates as well as providing a platform for presenting emerging architectural research. 

The information gained is used to inform RIBA educational policies and to respond to calls for evidence or consultations by various government departments.  We believe that this work is vital in order to shape and influence the future of the profession.’

(Source: RIBA )

Who is Selwyn Goldsmith?

Affectionately known as the 'Early Accessibility Pioneer' and the 'Grandfather of Universal Design', Goldsmith, the first Architect to receive the Harding Award for his services to disabled people, led the way in providing understanding of disability within the context of Architecture. 

In this talk I discussed his life, architectural adventures and the implications of his most significant contribution to architecture, the Architectural Model of Disability. The  aim of the talk and the subsequent monograph is to re-awaken the central themes of the Architectural Model of Disability and relay them within forums of architecture and built environment design and theory. It considers how contracting Polio impacted on his life and career, and gauges his acceptance within the profession of Architecture. The full extent of Goldsmith's impact has not been defined and his archive has been disconnected - until now.

From HRH Prince Charles to Louis Hellman, this talk focused on the people, architects, researchers and building precedent that he has inspired. I discussed his contributions to practice and theory, and as a result of the Civic Trust Award in his name, ‘The Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design’, the innovations that have resulted since.

In addition, I gave an overview to the SiDE () and BESiDE projects and talked about how, especially within the BESiDE project, we are developing methods to build evidence in understanding how older people’s quality of life, within the context of care homes, is currently enabled and disabled via the design of the built environment. 

I discussed how we are carrying out research in care homes, giving a voice to the users of these environments, measuring physical activity in relation to health, and tracing and modeling movement within the homes to generate new research knowledge and transfer that knowledge into professional practices.

Who was in the audience?

The audience was full of people immersed in the context of inclusive design/universal design in disciplines of Architecture, Design, Access consultants, Occupational Therapists, and more. Some had a personal interest, some were interested in the main topic - Selwyn goldsmith and his narrative - whilst and others were interested in the current research we are undertaking within the BESiDE project and SiDE projects.

What was discussed? 

Questions from the audience were motivated around how to educate students and professionals in practice about inclusion, inclusive methodologies and working with users of buildings. Terminology associated with Disability and Ageing was raised as an ever evolving and often confusing element to define.

Other themes of discussion included, design thinking that places communities in the driving seat and the idea of Public Interest Design (PID), and  excitement form the audience at the potential to to map our lives spatially, so that physical barriers to exclusion no longer exist, and less visible human barriers, in terms of our health and well being are understood and mitigated.

To find out more about Selwyn Goldsmith you can access the major outcomes of this research packaged within the 2013 RIBA year book, the Sewlyn Goldsmith entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (coming soon) an article placed within  the Centre for Accessible Environments Journal (CAE) Access by Design and the RIBA Monograph ‘Selwyn Goldsmith and the Architectural Model of Disability: A Retrospective of the Man and the Model’ (coming soon). 

References and Readers Notes

Lesley J McIntyre, 2013, Gloster, D. Nunes, J [eds]  ‘RIBA Trust: Selwyn Goldsmith (1932-2011) and the Architectural Model of Disability: A Retrospective of the Man and the Model’, RIBA 2013 Education Year Book, Royal Institute of British Architects, pages 106-109, ISBN 978-0-9564972-3-9

Lesley J. McIntyre, ‘Selwyn Goldsmith (1932-2011)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, (Details to be Confirmed)

McIntyre, L.J. 2014. Early Accessibility Pioneer and the Grandfather of Universal Design, Selwyn Goldsmith (1932-2011). Access by Design Journal, Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE)

Invited Speaker at the Royal Institute of British Architects, ‘Perspectives on Architecture’ Lecture Series, (For further information please see: ) Lesley J. McIntyre, 18/11/14, ‘Selwyn Goldsmith (1932-2011) and the Architectural Model of Disability: A Retrospective of the Man and the Model’.

Lesley J. McIntyre, 2014, ‘Selwyn Goldsmith (1932-2011) and the Architectural Model of Disability: A Retrospective of the Man and the Model’, Independent RIBA Research Trust Scholarship, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)


Event Details
  • A Talk
Location Details

66 Portland Place
United Kingdom

Related Links



Share this content