Barbara Knecht's picture
Barbara Knecht is director of design at the Institute for Human Centered Design (formerly Adaptive Environments), a non-profit organization committed to enhancing the experiences of people of all ages and abilities through excellence in design.
Member for
 10 years
Contributed
 10 posts
Barbara Knecht, R.A. is Director of Design at the Institute for Human Centered Design (formerly Adaptive Environments), an international, educational nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the experiences of people of all ages and abilities through excellence in design. She is also co-director of IHP “Cities in the 21st Century,” an undergraduate travel study program, and a consultant to Westhab, Inc. an affordable housing and community development organization.

Ms. Knecht has worked for the City of New York and consulted with not for profit agencies to produce several thousand units of affordable housing. She has researched and written dozens of articles on architectural technology and urban issues. Her work in universal design and accessibility dates back thirty years and has informed all her projects with a human centered design perspective.

Ms. Knecht holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University. She was awarded a Kinne Fellowship from Columbia University, a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, and received a Graham Foundation grant. She serves on the Metropolitan Life/Enterprise Foundation Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing, the Board of Directors of Care for the Homeless, and the Streetscape committee of the Municipal Art Society. Ms. Knecht is based in Boston and New York where she is a licensed architect and registered as a WBE.

Recent Posts

Blog post
November 1, 2011, 6pm PDT
Barbara Knecht
Blog post
September 21, 2011, 5pm PDT
Detroit is the darling of the media.
Barbara Knecht
Blog post
February 17, 2009, 4pm PST
A week ago I spent some time with Enrique Peñalosa, urban strategist and provocateur. North Americans don’t often look south for innovation, but Peñalosa made remarkable changes in the public environment as Mayor of the city of Bogotá, Colombia. Nearly impeached for his actions to push cars aside in favor of people, now he is invited to provoke and inspire others.  “We have Environmental Impact Statements; why don’t we have Human Impact statements,” is a sampling from last week.
Barbara Knecht
Blog post
November 23, 2007, 6am PST

Over the last few weeks, I have participated in two panels on Social and Environmental Sustainability. The first one was at the Ringling School of Art’s "Designing for Life" conference, the second was at BuildBoston where Adaptive Environments organized a day long symposium on Universal Design. In both cases, design took center stage. Design as a means towards change, and design as a business force. This is good news for advocates of Universal Design.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
August 23, 2007, 8am PDT
“I have always thought that design can be a form of social activism,” says Don Meeker, environmental graphic designer and co-creator of “Clearview” typeface. This small but radical quotation was buried in an article from the 8.12.07 NY Times Sunday magazine (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/magazine/12fonts-t.html) on the redesign of highway sign typeface. Meeker, James Montalbano, and a team of collaborators understood that it was the design of highway signage that was contributing to highway fatalities. They applied an understanding of human psychology and function to the solution of a “civic issue.”

Radical idea. It’s called Universal Design. Or social activism.
Barbara Knecht
Blog post
July 24, 2007, 10am PDT

Should Segways be allowed on sidewalks? Should all bicycles travel only in designated bike lanes? Should motorized scooters be treated as if they are wheelchairs? Where should rollerblades, skateboards, adult tricycles, bikes with trailers or kick scooters travel? The world of personal mobility is expanding. And so is the pressure in favor of alternatives to the grandaddy of personal mobility -- the automobile. In spite of its importance as image-maker and status-definer, a car is just a method for getting a person from Point A to Point B. Moving people -- that’s its basic purpose.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
June 25, 2007, 10am PDT

“Getting” Universal Design creates an “Aha!” moment. Experiencing Universal Design creates a “Wow!” moment.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
May 22, 2007, 12pm PDT

“We underwrite fun,” says Naomi McCleary, Manager of arts for the Waitakere City Council, one of the municipalities that make up the Auckland (New Zealand) metropolitan region. She is referring to the practice of involving artists in the thinking and creation of public places, buildings, streets, bridges; they take an equal seat at the table from conception to completion. According to Ms. McCleary, the results are remarkable. Fun is a partner of beauty and happiness, it is a means toward the creation of objects and places that are beautifully usable. Around the world it is possible to find municipalities that are underwriting this kind of fun, but for every found opportunity, we have several more that are lost.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
April 23, 2007, 7am PDT

On the Sunday that the April Nor’easter dumped the second highest rainfall ever recorded in Central Park, I waded to the New York Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center. I wasn’t there to see the mighty floor show of preening cars inside the convention center, I went to see the Taxi ’07 exhibition outside on the wind and rain swept lower roadway. For anyone who has tried to hail a taxi in a Manhattan rainstorm, visiting the exhibition on that Sunday raised a familiar feeling: nearly a dozen yellow taxis in sight, not one of which was going to pick me up and whisk me away to dry land.

Barbara Knecht
Blog post
March 22, 2007, 12pm PDT

In spite of my sense that we are heading pell mell into the gloom of global warming, catastrophic conflict and hopeless mediocrity, I’ve noticed a hopeful trend. Beauty and happiness have been rehabilitated from irrelevant to necessary.  It may not be an avalanche, but proponents are showing up in unusual places: a book by an environmental conservationist, another by an historian philosopher, and a Mother Jones article about the economy.  Can this portend a trend?

Barbara Knecht