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Ann Heylighen

Ann Heylighen
KU Leuven | ku leuven · Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning

PhD
design researcher | slow thinker | Francqui Research Professor

About

349
Publications
145,899
Reads
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2,310
Citations
Introduction
Ann is a design researcher with a background in architecture/engineering. As a professor of design studies at KU Leuven, she chairs a multidisciplinary research team at the interface of design research and social sciences/humanities. The team studies design practices in architecture and beyond, and explores how the spatial experience of people of various abilities, ages and perspectives may expand prevailing ways of understanding and designing space.
Additional affiliations
October 2021 - present
KU Leuven
Position
  • Professor
Description
  • By granting a Research Professorship, the Francqui Foundation gives the opportunity to a professor to dedicate herself to research. The mandate aims at researchers for whom a reduction of their teaching assignment represents added value for their university; it is aimed, in particular, at professors of an exceptionally high level, whose research is part of a current field of research and whose scientific and international influence contributes to an elevated standing of the Institution.
October 2018 - present
KU Leuven
Position
  • Professor (Full)
October 2013 - September 2018
KU Leuven
Position
  • Professor
Education
October 1996 - June 2000
KU Leuven
Field of study
  • Engineering: Architecture
September 1995 - February 1996
ETH Zurich
Field of study
  • Architecture
October 1991 - June 1996
KU Leuven
Field of study
  • Engineering: Architecture

Publications

Publications (349)
Article
Underlying the development of inclusive design approaches seems to be the assumption that inclusivity automatically leads to good design. What good design means, however, and how this relates to inclusivity, is not very clear. In this paper we try to shed light on these questions. In doing so, we provide an argument for conceiving design as a delib...
Article
Full-text available
Addressing the subject of Case-Based Reasoning in design, this article reports on a series of in-depth interviews with expert architects/design teachers about the role of cases in design practice and education. Several ingredients of the Case-Based Design (CBD) recipe turned out to occur in real-world design, be it in a subtler version than CBD...
Article
Purpose: Studies suggest that the concept of universal design (UD) is not widely accepted and that some of its ideas are received rather sceptically. This article confronts the concept of UD with prevailing notions and practices of design. It examines how UD can be situated relative to design in general, and explores whether elements in the nature...
Article
Inclusive design prescribes addressing the needs of the widest possible audience in order to consider human differences. Taking differences seriously, however, may imply severely restricting “the widest possible audience”. In confronting this paradox, we investigate to what extent Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness applies to design. By convertin...
Article
In the 1980s, one of the values advanced to distinguish the field of design from the sciences and the humanities was empathy. Since then it has become an important theme in design practice, research, and education. Insights from philosophy and cognitive science, however, suggest that empathy has become a design ideology rather than a principle suit...
Article
People on the autism spectrum may experience difficulties with social interactions. When living in student housing—be it purpose-built student accommodations or a house with multiple occupants—students with autism share most spaces with their housemates. This could lead to social situations in which they feel uncomfortable. In the study reported he...
Chapter
Architectural design for disabled people is generally associated with solving functional aspects of accessibility, and disconnected from aesthetic-poetic dimensions. But what if disabled people designed buildings? We investigate the perspectives of four architects with disability experience and explore diverse relationships between how they feel di...
Chapter
The Multisensory Museum presents a redesign for an art exhibition space at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, NL. We posit that setting up a co-design process as a dialogue between architects and people with disability experience can inspire more inclusive architecture with an atmospheric aesthetics. The dialogue started from the critiquing power of...
Presentation
Prison systems across the globe suffer from many problems, including overcrowding, poor living conditions and high recidivism rates. Against that background we have observed a renewed and growing interest in architectural aspects of detention. Notwithstanding a growing tendency within Europe to strengthen the rights of prisoners and to work toward...
Conference Paper
Aim. We aim to gain insight into how the outdoor environment of a rehabilitation centre hampers or supports patients to be physically active. Background. Accessible and attractive outdoor environments both in the near vicinity of healthcare facilities and in the larger neighbourhood are put forward as highly beneficial for the motivation to be phy...
Conference Paper
Aim. To understand how the built environment affects experiences of palliative care in a freestanding hospice, and derive design challenges from that. Background. ‘Hospice’ refers to both a philosophy of care and a building type, designed specifically for this care. Hospice care is anchored in space and spatial practices, however this relation is u...
Article
Background Behaviours that challenge might prevent intellectually impaired individuals from experiencing a good quality of life (QoL). These behaviours arise in interaction with the environment and can be positively or negatively affected by architecture. Aim This scoping review explores how architecture contributes to the QoL of individuals engag...
Conference Paper
In this paper, we outline a framework for justice in design practice that escape the paradox inclusive design seems to be trapped in and introduces three tools to meet the demands it raises: Rawls’s idea of the original position, cognitive empathy, and public deliberation. We suggest that applying these tools to the design process makes sense of in...
Conference Paper
Studies show that many autistic adults are less likely to live independently regardless of their abilities. This paper summarizes insights into the role of the built environment in the independent living of autistic people. Existing architectural research concerning autism has focused predominantly on the built environment. By contrast, our researc...
Article
We start this invited perspective with two excerpts. The first is an advertisement for A+, a Belgian architecture journal, which devoted an issue to architecture for children to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The second comes from the website of a Dutch architecture firm (LIAG) des...
Article
People’s health and well-being is known to be affected by the built environment. Since prisons see an overrepresentation of people with mental and physical health problems, we examine how the built prison environment affects the provision of care for prisoners with specific needs. Based on observations and (focus group) interviews with prisoners, p...
Conference Paper
Children affected by cancer often require repeated hospitalisations. The impact of the material hospital environment on children's well-being receives growing attention across various disciplines. Yet, because of their ‘double vulnerability’ – being children and being ill – young people affected by cancer are less considered as direct research part...
Article
In qualitative research, visual methods often entail engaging with images as the subject of analysis. Yet, images may be of value also as a means of analysis. This article reflects on this analytical value in relation to drawings. To this end, the authors explore drawings made by researchers in various phases of qualitative research. Drawings made...
Article
Full-text available
Architecture is never fixed: buildings and (urban) spaces change as their use(r)s and contexts change over time. Even when architectural projects receive recognition of their dynamic nature, it remains unclear how to deal with this during design processes. The need for sustainable building raises interest in this topic in architecture research. Thi...
Article
Hospitals’ indoor conditions affect patients’ comfort. Comfort is predicted based on threshold values for indoor environmental quality (IEQ) indicators, but discrepancies with actual (dis)comfort occur. Current prediction methods ignore the role of patients’ adaptation or treat it as a ‘black box’. Therefore, we investigated how distinguishing betw...
Article
Research indicates that adaptation influences how people experience indoor conditions (ICs), and that the built environment influences both adaptation, via perceived control, and well-being. Their interlinkage is, however, not well understood. Therefore, we investigated how the design of hospital rooms can contribute to patients’ well-being by supp...
Presentation
The COVID-19 pandemic affects the course of daily life. Various authorities took measures to contain or control the spread of the virus. Since keeping distance plays a crucial role in limiting its spread, an important challenge is dealing with the limited space. The use of space(s) is regulated in various ways and with various degrees of inclusivit...
Article
Full-text available
The built and living environment in the Flemish region in Belgium is evolving noticeably. It is densifying at an ever-faster pace and, along the way, becoming increasingly unfamiliar to its inhabitants. Many people face profound difficulties in autonomously and positively dealing with such drastic changes, causing their feeling of home to waver. Tr...
Poster
Full-text available
Going to college is a critical transitional phase in becoming independent. Through shared living arrangements students learn to deal with challenges and develop important life skills. Difficulties with social interaction and differences in processing (sensory) information may make such arrangements challenging for students on the autism spectrum. I...
Conference Paper
La Cité Miroir, a public multi-use cultural space is situated in the former public swimming pool and thermal baths of La Sauvenière (Bains et thermes de la Sauvenière), a modernist architecture registered as monument in the Walloon heritage since 2005. This building located in Liège city centre in Belgium has been considered as one of the most impo...
Chapter
Dementia is increasingly being recognised as a public health priority and poses one of the largest challenges we face as a society. At the same time, there is a growing awareness that the quest for a cure for Alzheimer's disease and other causes of dementia needs to be complemented by efforts to improve the lives of people with dementia. To gain a...
Article
Liminality captures the passing stages in transitioning from one sociocultural status to another. As its spatial dimension remains under-examined, we analyse this in experiences of people affected by cancer. We review liminality in cancer-related literature and juxtapose this with empirical material. Analysing interview data (with eight patients) a...
Presentation
Aging, migration, and changes in how disability is understood challenge architects/designers to consider human differences so as to meet the needs of the widest possible audience – the purpose of inclusive design approaches. Originally focused on age and ability, more recently these approaches evolved towards a wider understanding of diversity (e.g...
Conference Paper
During the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, crisis management and fast decision-making regarding infrastructural adaptations were key as hospitals faced major challenges while attempting to ensure optimal care. This study aims to gain insight into decision-making processes regarding infrastructural adaptations. Interviews were conducted (in J...
Article
Architects tend to design consistent with their own values and concerns. Designing for imaginary users, especially disabled ones, may pose major challenges. Drawing on aspects of focused ethnography, we show how architect Stéphane Beel’s anticipation of using a wheelchair in the future due to a progressive-regressive disease influences his willingn...
Conference Paper
While sustainability is increasingly considered a core topic in architectural design curricula, the dominant focus is still on technical and environmental aspects. Yet how the built environment becomes part of people’s (future) everyday living matters greatly. Its ability to meaningfully change along with uses, users and contexts is an important me...
Conference Paper
Climate change phenomena, in particular current excessive ultraviolet radiation and increasing heat waves, require safe shade for bathers during the hours of higher sun exposure in risk periods. Urban beaches are often crowded spaces during midday hours. For suburban families, without private transportation, it is difficult to limit the stay just t...
Presentation
The Research[x]Design group comprises researchers with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and research approaches. Data collection, often involving people in vulnerable situations and/or sensitive contexts, requires significant investments (effort, time); data are rich in ways valuable both for subsequent investigations and to inform design practice....
Presentation
What can architects do to create more inclusion and sustainability? Architects need to design buildings people want to live in. Can we move away from pure utilitarianism in architecture and city planning? Do architects have the power to build sustainability into the fabric of society? and can they make sure it is affordable for everyone?
Article
Full-text available
Many autistic adults continue living with their parents rather than living independently, regardless of their IQ levels. In studies about adaptive housing, their perspective is still lacking. To address this gap, our research aims to offer insight into, first, autistic adults’ experiences of living independently, and second, what role the housing e...
Presentation
The Covid-19 pandemic challenges healthcare organizations with respect to the provision of care, but also regarding the built environment. Hospitals were forced to rethink the use and organization of their buildings on very short notice in order to separate Covid from non-Covid patients. How hospital buildings were adapted in six general hospitals...
Article
Contemporary understandings of vulnerability highlight its critical, relational and enabling aspects. Through leveraging these understandings, this article contributes to conceptualizing the notion of everyday design by interweaving it with that of vulnerability. A case study brings vulnerability into view by zooming out from and in on everyday pra...
Article
Prevailing conceptions of disability in architectural discourse give rise to the devaluing of disabled people’s lived experiences. However, several studies in architecture and disability studies show how the experience of disability may lead to a careful attentiveness towards the qualities of the built environment that are relevant for design. Usin...
Conference Paper
Abstract Bathing facilities may provide spatial conditions to promote physical activity and relaxation. In terms of preventing epidemic airborne diseases, outdoor pools are safer than indoor ones because of risks related with ventilation efforts. In the 20th century a tanned skin was perceived as a sign of a healthy body and outdoor pools promoting...
Article
De fysieke omgeving is een medium dat sociale relaties maakt en hermaakt, en vice versa. Samen kunst creëren, met aandacht voor je omgeving, helpt mensen om zich meer thuis te voelen. Het artistieke participatieproject Mount Murals kreeg een VLAIO Innovatiemandaat (2019-2021) om met deze benaderingswijze een participatief ontwerp te maken voor de c...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Socially engaged design seeks to tackle tangible problems of our society. Yet, all too often attempts to use design in this way bring new problems into being. In this sense, designers are pervasively asked to confront and reason about ethical questions by the very nature of design processes: in articulating what becomes, they find themselves inesca...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Background and aim – Challenging behaviour, such as aggression towards oneself, others, or objects, arises in interaction with the environment and may prevent individuals from participating in society and enjoying a high quality of life (QoL). Literature suggests that architects can contribute to prevention, by influencing challenging behaviour bef...
Presentation
Migration, population ageing, and changes in how disability is understood challenge designers to consider human differences in order to meet the needs of the widest possible audience – the purpose of inclusive design. Yet, paradoxically, taking differences seriously may severely restrict ‘the widest possible audience’. How can design be fair if it...
Conference Paper
Hospitals’ indoor environmental quality (IEQ) impacts on patients’ well-being. Their experience is affected by environmental conditions, psychological and confounding factors (e.g., age, sex). Thermal, visual, and acoustical comfort and indoor air quality - considered the main IEQ parameters - are often examined separately. People’s overall assessm...
Poster
Full-text available
Inclusive design focuses on designing environments that account for differences, both between people and across their lifespan. This requires a profound understanding of how different kinds of bodies and minds interact with built space. People with a mobility or sensory impairment, for instance, can detect obstacles or appreciate spatial qualities...
Poster
Full-text available
Spatially organizing social interactions has become a topical theme given our deprivation of so many of these due to Covid-19. When submitting our original abstract, we aimed to offer insight into why it may be important for people to “be apart together”, and how spatial organization may serve this. Rather than by the need to stay six feet away, ou...
Article
De context van mensen op de vlucht en de solidariteit die hieruit ontstaat, vormt een concrete aanleiding om op zoek te gaan naar een ruimtelijk concept voor plaatsen van solidariteit in de publieke ruimte. Hoe kan zo’n plaats een brug slaan tussen diverse (lokale) groepen en collectieve functies? Hoe kan ze gedeelde noden lenigen en ontmoeting fac...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Challenging behaviour (CB), such as aggression towards oneself, others, or objects, arises in interaction with the environment and is shown in order to escape, increase attention, adjust sensory stimulation, or receive material rewards. CB may prevent individuals from participating in society and enjoying a high quality of life (QoL). Literature su...
Article
Objective: The study explored how built space plays out in palliative care, focusing on spatial aspects that could support or hamper patients’, relatives’, and caregivers’ well-being. Methods: The study was conducted in a hospitce combining a residential part for eight guests with a day-care part for groups of about five persons. Observations were...
Article
Architects and healthcare organisations involved in designing healthcare environments highly value insights gained through research to inform their practice. Obtaining research funding increasingly presupposes economic and/or societal value of research outcomes. Our study aims to gain a nuanced understanding of what knowledge transfer in an inter-...
Chapter
In light of the 30th birthday of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we explore what makes a city child-friendly. This question is often answered by adults rather than children themselves. Moreover, designing child-specific places tends to bring children out of view. With an eye to designing cities as places for everyone, including children,...
Chapter
While children have as much right to the city as other people, spatial planners tend to restrict children to child-specific places such as playgrounds. With an eye to designing cities as places for everyone, we explored together with children how they experience their city and what they think about it. In this paper we reflect on the use of researc...
Chapter
Autistic people deal with their environment in a unique way due to differences in sensory perception. Designing housing for autistic people who are unknown is challenging. This research aims to bridge the gap between architects’ design intentions and autistic users’ experiences. Through a qualitative research approach, combining interviews and part...
Chapter
To investigate how healthcare buildings, especially hospitals, need to be designed to take up an active role in patient mobilisation and as such contribute to patient recovery, we are in need of a research approach to map patients physical activity in relation to the (indoor) built environment. Tracking participants physical activity is an importan...
Article
Full-text available
After having been granted protection by the arrival country, refugees can start settling again. Finding appropriate housing is difficult, however. To increase the availability of housing for refugees in Flanders several volunteers developed housing initiatives. We investigated to what extent these initiatives resonate with refugees’ lived experienc...
Article
Buildings’ indoor environmental quality (IEQ) affects people’s comfort and wellbeing. However, even if comfort requirements for indoor environmental indicators are achieved, people are often not satisfied. Reducing this discrepancy requires reconsidering research methodologies. A scoping review examines how IEQ research and research about healing e...
Article
Design-use relations are complex: architects influence social outcomes through design without having control over them. Making this complexity explicit during design is important, but difficult. Promising is work on human-technology relations in science and technology studies (STS) and philosophy of technology. With an eye to connecting this theore...
Book
This proceedings book presents papers from the 10th Cambridge Workshops on Universal Access and Assistive Technology. The CWUAAT series of workshops have celebrated a long history of interdisciplinarity, including design disciplines, computer scientists, engineers, architects, ergonomists, ethnographers, ethicists, policymakers, practitioners, and...
Article
This paper presents an exploratory study about multisensory perception in the use of the urban loggia, i.e., outdoor covered space open to one or more sides integrated in the ground level of buildings, providing public shaded walkways and living areas. Due to current temporary occurrences of extreme intensity of ultra-violet radiation and the incre...
Presentation
This study addresses the extent to which architects and clients involved in the design of cancer care facilities integrate the perspectives of users generally, and people affected by cancer specifically, in the design process. What supports and challenges can be identified regarding this integration? The literature suggests that in design briefs fo...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Migration, population ageing, and changes in how disability is understood challenge designers to consider human differences in order to meet the needs of the widest possible audience – the purpose of inclusive design. Yet, paradoxically, taking differences seriously may severely restrict ‘the widest possible audience’. How can design be fair if it...
Article
Since the turn of the 21st century we see a renewed interest in the impact of hospital environments on children’s well-being. In this article, we study the spatiality of children affected by cancer, i.e., their encounters with the day-care ward they are situated in. First we elaborate on these encounters through Schatzki’s practice theory and Gibso...
Article
Objective: Better understanding how (built) cancer care facilities are present in the experience of people with cancer offers insight into how buildings affect their wellbeing. Exposure to these facilities entails confrontation in multiple ways. The value ascribed to a place grows over time and can be expected to affect the experience of care. Met...
Article
The experience of cancer patients often includes numerous consultations and procedures taking place in a variety of (cancer) care facilities. Relatives and care professionals play a part and have unique perspectives. This article describes the roles cancer care facilities play in the well-being of patients, relatives, and care professionals, and id...
Article
Full-text available
Health services will change dramatically as the prevalence of home healthcare increases. Only technologically advanced acute care will be performed in hospitals. This—along with the increased healthcare needs of people with long-term conditions such as stroke and the rising demand for services to be more person-centred—will place pressure on health...
Presentation
This paper presents an exploratory study about multisensory perception in the use of the urban loggia, i.e., outdoor covered space open to one or more sides integrated in the ground level of buildings, providing public shaded walkways and living areas. Due to current temporary occurrences of extreme intensity of ultra-violet radiation and the incre...
Conference Paper
Objective – This paper seeks to investigate the extent to which architects and clients involved in the design of cancer care facilities integrate the perspectives of users generally, and people affected by cancer specifically, in the design process. Background – Increasingly hospital users contribute to design briefs and participate as stakeholder...
Conference Paper
Objective – In this paper we aim to learn from research on an urban scale how the built environment can impact on people’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour in order to translate this to designing healthcare buildings. Background – Research shows that physical inactivity (i.e., lack of physical activity or movement) and sedentary behaviour...
Conference Paper
Objective – To reduce the gap between patients being dissatisfied about hospitals’ indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and hospitals achieving target values for IEQ parameters, this paper aims to identify possible improvements of applied research methodologies. Background – Buildings’ IEQ affects users’ comfort, productivity, and well-being. Especia...
Article
Since the turn of the century we see a renewed interest in the impact of hospital environments on children’s well-being. With policy largely built around adult assumptions, knowledge about these environments from young people’s perspectives is limited. Participatory visual research is considered helpful to explore people’s perspectives in other tha...
Article
Despite the very aim to design living environments for people, in architectural design processes the perspectives of end users are underrepresented. Architects are expected to address the challenges of a diverse and ageing society but, due to increasingly complex design processes, they often have limited access to the perspectives of those they are...
Article
The increasing complexity of architectural practice presents a challenge to transferring knowledge from use to design contexts, leaving attending to user experience an implicit design dimension. An ethnographic study in three firms sheds light on how knowledge about user experience – unpacked into facets of perception, activity and meaning – is emb...
Article
Critics point towards an excessive visual emphasis in (western) architecture bringing about a weakened sense of belonging, and a disconnection from places and from [each other > other people]. Architects’ visual way of knowing and working is further criticized for contributing to an alienating “architecture of the eye.” This article aims to challen...
Article
Architectural design as collaborative practice relies on using representational artefacts. However, these artefacts and their use are prone to a visual bias, which may pose problems in co-designing with vision impaired people. The research question addressed in this article is therefore: how can we develop representational artefacts to support a di...
Article
Full-text available
Objective: The aim of this study was to explore patients’ experiences of the physical environment at a newly built stroke unit. Background: For a person who survives a stroke, life can change dramatically. The physical environment is essential for patients’ health and well-being. To reduce infections, a majority of new healthcare facilities mainly...
Presentation
Some notions of aesthetics in architecture focus on the individual-environment relation rather than on the relations between individuals occurring within space and the role of architecture therein. Other notions start to question these individual perspectives by looking into aesthetic sensibilities oriented towards creating environments that enrich...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In architecture, the growing complexity of design processes increases the distance between design and use contexts, which makes it challenging to take into account user experience in design. This situation is reflected in architectural education, where students typically design for hypothetical clients and users. Initiatives to introduce user persp...
Presentation
Full-text available
The 'wrong perspective' research is an attempt to fuse different fields by exploring and inventing alternative ways of depicting the world, by combining geometry, design and intuition. The research looks for extensions of vanishing point perspective, such as in pre-Renaissance Oriental art, in Eastern-European art, in Asian or African art (Huylebro...