International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven Visits Populous’ offices to Talk About Accessibility

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On Friday 5th December, Populous were delighted to welcome Sir Philip Craven MBE, the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), to our London studio in Putney. This was another opportunity for our architects and designers to engage directly with our clients, and learn more about the first-hand experience of accessibility in international stadia. 

With a reputation for being a straight-talking, no-nonsense sports administrator, Sir Philip did not disappoint as he set about enlisting the help of every member of the Populous team in achieving the IPC’s core vision; to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.

Paying tribute to “London’s amazing Games” and the “fantastic Winter Games in Sochi”, Sir Philip made a passionate case for sport as “life’s great educator” and illustrated how the the power of the Paralympics to both surprise and delight spectators has made it an extremely effective vehicle for changing society’s perceptions.

Noting that Populous was the first architectural practice in the UK to invite him to speak to its team, Sir Philip took the opportunity to call for architects and designers to go beyond existing concepts, building codes and established practices and to ‘think outside the box’ in creating facilities that can be used by everybody without exceptions. “If young architects are supported to create barrier-free environments at an early stage in their career, they will continue the habit and it will become standard practice for them and the whole industry. Ramps alone are not the solution”, he said.

Sir Philip also explained how the IPC had developed their vision after London 2012, the most successful Paralympic Games in history, and were seeking to achieve even greater success at Rio 2016 in terms of ensuring equitable, dignified and functional access to facilities for all. Whereas in London attention was given to a new concept called the “Last Mile” – ensuring that the immediate urban domain around the venue was part of everyone’s Paralympic experience – the focus in Rio will be on the “First Mile”:

“How will people get out of their houses and reach the closest accessible bus or metro station? If the chain is broken, people can’t come to the Games. You can’t make the entire city accessible. What to do? Bring the people to the facility and show how it can be done all over”, Sir Philip said.

In closing a fascinating presentation, Sir Philip reiterated that design should blend efficiently with engineering in order to remove exclusion and produce attractive, accessible spaces. Putting it quite simply, he said: “If something is accessible for me, I don’t notice it.”

Taking up Sir Philip’s challenge, Populous’ architects and designers are more motivated than ever to look for new ways to create stadia that further enable all athletes to achieve sporting excellence, as well as improving accessibility for everyone.

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