What is Equity in Architecture and Design?

According to dictionaries, equity is defined as the ability to give equal treatment to all people while acknowledging differences. Equity is fairness and consideration for each individual’s needs and characteristics. Equity is a medical concept that all people need care and attention, but not necessarily the exact same. Noting that equity and equality are frequently used interchangeably, it is important to note that they can mean different things. This is because equality is based upon the principle of universal right, which means all people are subject to the same rules without exception.

Equity can be addressed on many levels in the fields of architecture and design. The first is in the professional and workplace. This includes issues like gender equality and the place of women in the field. Second, spatial equity is a very special aspect of these disciplines. Architecture, urban planning, design, and other related disciplines are important tools for implementing the principle of equity within the spaces we live in.

C.O Kindergarten and Nursery / HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro. © Studio Bauhaus, Ryuji Ino

Equity in architecture and industrial design means that different users have equal access to the same conditions. Equity can also be found in small details, such as windows that are different heights in kindergartens, which allow everyone to have direct contact with the outside world, regardless of their height. Similar logic is found in Japan’s C.O Kindergarten and Nursery, which have blackboards of different heights. Although these solutions seem simple, they show that architecture is meant to accommodate diversity by including the unique characteristics of each user, creating equal opportunities.

Medellín cable car system. Credit: The Gondola Project

Equity in urban planning serves the same purpose: to promote equal access to the city. This is especially true for urban mobility, as people may be restricted in their movement and therefore unable to take part in or participate in certain activities. The Metrocable, a network of affordable cable cars that allows people living in hilly areas to integrate with the rest of Medellin’s city, is an example of an urban strategy for equal mobility.

These examples demonstrate that equity in design, architecture and urban planning is about providing everyone with the same opportunities and using appropriate and sensible solutions to each situation.

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