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The Herald Palladium

Date: June 4, 2008

Article originally published in
The Herald-Palladium 05/12/2008.
Written by Debra Haight, HP Correspondent.
Reprinted with permission. 

AU architecture grad designs ‘universal’ house
Conversation with a disabled aunt ultimately leads to a prize-winning plan from Monique Reid

BERRIEN SPRINGS — Monique Reid started thinking about designing a home for people with disabilities during a conversation with an aunt years ago.

“She had a stroke and it was difficult for her to get around,” Reid recalled. “She told me years ago that I had to design a house for her when she learned I was going into architecture.” Reid, 27, who graduated last week with a master’s degree in architecture from Andrews University , took that conversation to heart. Her design won first place in the House of Freedom National Universal Home Design Competition sponsored by the American Institute ofArchitecture Students and the AARP.

She will receive $2,500 for drawing the top place design and will have her design on display at the 2008 AIA Convention May 15-17 in Boston and at the AARP’s 50th Anniversary celebration Sept. 46 in Washington, D.C.

Reid admits she may not have known much about universal home design before she entered the national design contest, but soon found that the concept fit perfectly with her own ideas about architecture and its role in serving humanity.

“For me, architecture is a service about how I can shape the physical environment for people whether they’re rich or poor and give my ability to others,” she said.

Reid, a Berrien Springs resident and native of Jamaica, said she chose to enter the House of Freedom contest because creating a universal design house intrigued and challenged her. “I designed this house for her (her aunt) and others, to show that homes can be both functional and beautiful,” she said. “Universal design started out emphasizing being functional and accessible, but they didn’t look beautiful, sleek and stylish or where anyone would want to live.”

Reid chose Michigan City as the location for her House of Freedom design since her class had worked there to draw up a walkable communities master plan and she wanted to design a house that would fit well into that plan.

“I wanted to create a home that was durable and that people would want to live in, that would be sustainable for a lifetime,” she said. “The idea behind universal design is that if a house can cater to everyone’s needs, there will be less need for new construction.”
Her design for a single family home included exterior features such as having one entrance accessible by a ramp, an illuminated, covered entrance area and a landscape filled with native plants to reduce water runoff.

On the inside, she designed doors and hallways large enough for someone in a wheelchair to navigate, with open space under sinks and countertops in the kitchen, different counter heights and even a faucet by the stovetop so people wouldn’t have to carry a pan full of water to the stove.

In the bathrooms, she designed sinks with open space underneath as well as walk-in tubs and showers with nonslip flooring and grab bars. She also designed a full bathroom and bedroom on the ground floor, where they would be readily accessible.

Overall, she made the home energy-efficient both in its construction and the types of appliances and fixtures used.

“I wanted to make the house appealing to all human beings,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what people’s physical abilities or age are, with this house they don’t have to move if something changes.

“I started in architecture because I wanted to do residential design. Now with what I’ve learned, I can give my clients a better design, one that involves thinking ahead for whatever life brings. I think my clients will thank me that they’ll have a house they can live in for a lifetime.”

Reid said her interest in architecture goes back to when she was growing up in Jamaica. “When I was little, I redesigned our house on paper, flipping rooms, changing colors and redesigning the front of the house,” she said. “It was my little hobby and my family would always encourage me to follow my dreams.”

Her dreams have shifted some over the years, but her love of architecture hasn’t. She has had internships with Allegretti Architects in St. Joseph and Craig Architects in Grand Rapids and is looking for a job with an architectural firm.

Her ultimate goal is to return to the Caribbean where she still has relatives, continue her career as an architect and open an orphanage. “I want to change the idea of how an orphanage looks,” she said. “I want it to be a space that feels like a home.”

Reid said the long hours the last few months – researching and working on the design for her submission plus finishing work necessary for graduation – have been worth it.
“I found out that I had won April 29 when a friend told me I should call home,” she said.

“I stayed calm, but I was jumping up and down inside. I was on the phone for an hour telling everyone that I had won. It is an amazing gift from God. It’s such an honor, I’m still on cloud nine.”

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