Kinetic Architecture (Part II): Technology for the Disabled

As far as we are concerned, most people will not go through their lives entirely able-bodied. At times of infancy, elderly, or injury, most people go through life having at least a little taste of disability, an inconvenience in mobility. Which is why it is necessary for architects and designers alike to build environments that are barrier-free and do not hinder the movement and freedom of anyone and fulfill the needs of everyone equally, most importantly to ensure safety, convenience and allow for independence of the disabled, which after all does not negatively affect any able-bodied person in any way. Architecture is about the thoughtful creation environments for the user, for them to inhabit and experience, after all (Malhotra, n.d).

“In fact we have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.” Stephen Hawking.

Developments based on easing the lives of the disabled can be seen all throughout the world, mostly for transportational conveniences such as ramps leading up sidewalks. For this study, a case study is conducted on Maison à Bordeaux, a kinetic, three-storey, disabled-friendly private residence.

Ground level

The Maison à Bordeaux is a private residence owned by a couple that was constructed after one of the owners of the house had a car accident and became wheelchair-bound. The couple wanted to liberate the husband of “the prison that their old house and the medieval city had become” due to his disability. He stressed on the importance of the house to architect Rem Koolhaas, mentioning that he did not want a simple house because the house will define his world (OMA, n.d).

Top floor

The house is made of three stacked volumes overlooking Bordeaux with panoramic views of the city. The lower level is a “series of caverns carved out from the hill” and has an interior courtyard facing the residence and guest house, designed for the family to have their intimate time. The ground floor on the garden level is a transparent glass room, half inside; half outside, allowing for all types of activities with its open plan, consequently being the most occupied space in the house while the upper floor is divided into a children’s and a parents’ area (OMA, n.d).

Elevator platform

At the heart of the house is a 3m x 3.5m elevator platform that ties together each floor, adding a dynamic touch as it continuously changes the architecture of the house. But it doesn’t stop there, the platform is actually a part of the living space, disguised as an intimate office space for the husband and granting access to books, artwork, and the wine cellar (OMA, n.d).

Maison à Bordeaux not only shows us how technology can help ease the movements of a disabled user by allowing for independent access of the entire house, but at the same time how it change the dynamic of the house completely for all users to experience space in a new light.


Kroll, A. (2011), ‘AD Classics: Maison Bordeaux / OMA’, ArchDaily, 25 January, [online], available at: [accessed 26 June 2017].

Malhotra, S., (n.d), ‘Architecture & Design for the Disabled People’, Arch2o, [online], available at: ( [accessed 26 June 2017].

OMA (n.d), ‘Maison à Bordeaux’, [online], available at: [accessed 27 June 2017].

United Nations, (n.d), ‘Accessibility for the disabled: A Design Manual for Barrier Free Environment, [online], available at: [accessed 26 June 2017].

Image sources:

Werlemann, H., courtesy of OMA, available at:


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