Accessible Design, 30 Years On

What we’ve learned from the Americans with Disabilities Act

Chicago’s Millennium Park, pictured in 2012. Photo © Vito Palmisano

Millennium Park, a model for universal design

In 1997, Chicago mayor Richard Daley announced plans to create the city’s most significant new park in a century. By covering a vast rail yard to extend the historic Grant Park northward, this new public space — called Millennium Park — would be built atop what is effectively the world’s largest roof garden.

Anish Kapoor’s reflective “Cloud Gate” has become an instant Chicago icon. Photo © Petr Kratochvil
Millennium Park’s pedestrian bridge connects to the redesigned Maggie Daley Park (at left), pictured in 2017. Photo J. E. Koonce
“Crown Fountain” offers respite from the heat. Photo © Jackman Chiu. CC 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Lifting the lawn at Barnard College

In 2018, Barnard College opened the Milstein Center, a new academic building and library envisioned as the intellectual heart of its New York City campus. The project has helped to further the college’s mission to provide an inclusive and equitable learning environment.

The Milstein Center, left, and the newly elevated lawn. Photo © Magda Biernat

A Fifth Avenue landmark, reinvented

As cities constantly evolve, the practice of adaptive reuse — transforming older buildings to serve a new purpose — has become an essential strategy for urban development. When it comes to landmark buildings, protected for their historic or cultural value, any renovation project is a delicate matter. Add in the desire to improve accessibility, and you have a real juggling act: maintaining a building’s historic integrity, while providing for the needs of today’s users.

Manufacturers Hanover Trust building, circa 1954. Photo © Ezra Stoller | Esto
The renovated building, circa 2012, with its new transparent glass elevator. Photo © Eduard Hueber

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