TECHNO-SPATIAL ENGAGEMENT: An Update from the IDEC Special Projects Grant Award 2016

Presented by: Ziad Qureshi

In a world increasingly defined by technological proficiency and access, the provision of technology-oriented spaces and infrastructures to the broad community is a social and public priority. The growing ubiquity of internet social connectivity, information dissemination, and communication methods means bolstering access and abilities is increasingly challenging to those who are unaccustomed and economically disadvantaged. As technologies encompass everyday life, grave risk remains of leaving those with limited spatial, educational, and economic means behind – alienating them from broader society. Simultaneously, the potential exists to harness the benefits of technology to elevate humanity with new resources. Representative of this prioritization and contemporary relevance, recently major global initiatives such as MIT’s One Laptop per Child program, Facebook’s, and Google’s Project Loon have attempted to rectify large-scale technology and internet access issues in the developing world.1 Closer to home, strong need exists with some of our most vulnerable community members to ensure their continuing technological accessibility and enablement. Currently social isolation among the elderly is estimated to be as high as 43%, with 1 in 4 older adults in Harris County, TX, living alone,2 demonstrative of its particular relevance to our Senior and economically disadvantaged citizens. This poster will provide a progress update to the associated project that received the IDEC Special Project Grant Award 2016. The incremental update poster, building towards the 9-month project report that will be delivered in January 2017, will describe the current status of the initiative’s goal to increase the connectivity of Seniors to technology via Interior Design. A summary of the 1-day community workshop event collaboratively joining Interior students and the Seniors of Houston’s Fifth Ward neighborhood will be offered, contributing towards innovative design solutions for a human-scale mobile furniture/installation/station to facilitate improved access to technologies for seniors. The current status of the ongoing project will be offered, responding to the needs of the community and its Seniors, who are among the most challenged in our society by technological proficiency and access. The poster will describe student research into technologies, the continuing collaborative work with community partners, as well as parallel faculty research presented at the recent Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) 2016 Fall Conference “Building for Health and Well-being” in Health and Vulnerable Populations conducted in affiliation with the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). Adding to this progress, the primary product of the workshop will be the exploration, creation, and rapid-prototype/mockup of a collaboratively generated design solution. As a framework, these furniture/installation “technological infrastructures” are intended to emphasize spatial mobility, ergonomics, independence, relevant skills education, and cost-effectiveness at the interior scale with specificity for the unique human needs of their Senior users. The poster-based update will demonstrate how the work advances the continuing successful collaboration between the students of the Interior Architecture program at the University of Houston, the social advocacy organization Neighborhood Centers Inc., and the John W. Peavy Senior Center in Houston’s Fifth Ward - a predominantly economically-challenged and African-American neighborhood. As an outreach endeavor in service learning and social responsibility, prioritizing the public welfare needs of the community and the seniors, the initiative expects to enable the students to develop real-world professional skills via responsive design investigation, rapid prototyping employing emerging fabrication methodologies, and community-based problem solving and engagement.


  • O’Donovan, Caroline. “Can Outernet Bring Information to the World Faster than the Internet?” BuzzFeed. 16 Jul 2015. Accessed 04 Jan 2016.
  • Nicholson, Nicholas R. “A Review of Social Isolation: An Important but Underassessed Condition in Older Adults.” Journal of Primary Prevention 2012; 33(2-3): p.137-152.
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