For an overview of Johnna Keller’s architecture work, visit hir LinkedIn page.


Johnna has presented at numerous venues, including AIA National; the “Disability, Arts, Health” conference in Bergen, Norway; and invited talks at universities including UCal-Berkeley and the University of Minnesota. Below are the materials from several of these presentations.


In Spring 2016, AIA’s journal Design Equilibrium 2016 published Johnna’s article “The Politics of Stairs.” The article can be accessed using the two links below.

“The Politics of Stairs” has just been licensed to appear in the textbook The Norton Field Guide to Writing, 5th ed.

Society for Disability Studies 2014 Presentation

Below appears the text of Johnna’s original 2014 presentation at SDS, with described images.

© Bullitt Foundation The Bullitt Center

© Bullitt Foundation
The Bullitt Center

The image above is an exterior photograph of The Bullitt Center in Seattle, and shows an angled view of a white building with large windows and a large roof extending over the building’s edges, all within a dense urban context of buildings, sidewalks, and streets. A vertical glass and steel tower juts forward from the building’s front façade to display a series of stairs.

© Farsid Assassi, courtesy of BNIM Architects The Omega Center for Sustainable Living

© Farsid Assassi, courtesy of BNIM Architects
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living

The image above is an interior photograph of The Omega Center for Sustainable Living in upstate New York, and shows an expanse of windows looking out onto a dense forest of trees, blue skies, and puffy white clouds. A lower band of windows opens to the outside air while three people stretch on mats lined below.

Using two recent examples of sustainable architecture, Johnna Keller will contrast how the green building industry appears to be privileging able-bodied occupants to decrease the environmental footprint of buildings while also implementing design strategies to improve the quality of the indoor environment, creating spaces that improve the health and well-being of all occupants.

How can green building be sustainable if it’s not accessible? How can we help influence the future of sustainable design so that it’s both accessible and sustainable?

Click here for a Google Doc of Johnna’s 2014 SDS presentation.

5 thoughts on “Johnna

  1. Johnna I am really interested in these questions! I feel like a lot of “new” sustainable architecture is overlaid on former industrial sites, so that the new buildings reuse the old ones, but also reproduce a lot of their exclusions. Though, of course, if the factory was making the right product, there are a lot of accessibility features that could be repurposed or accentuated. I wonder how we could frame those features for architects and consumers so they are at the forefront?

  2. Jay, that’s a great question, and I agree, especially about allowing previous exclusions and grandfathering in of barriers to access. I’ve been wondering why so many architects are treating sustainability and accessibility as two separate specializations within the field. I mean, I know why this is, and it’s because they are two specializations. But, maybe I’m wondering why preliminary strategy meetings aren’t bringing more specializations to the table (e.g., accessibility experts, sustainability experts, etc.) at the onset to brainstorm conceptual or schematic design together. So, maybe it’s more about having more voices heard at the beginning of a project. This thought then leads me to, “Oh, right! Because the building owner has to want Universal Design rather than just accessibility.” And I think that’s because almost all people involved in the building process (e.g., architects, engineers, contractors, owners, etc.) think that accessibility is only about meeting ADA, and ADA is already covered by what the architect does (or as you point out, often not covered at all because of various exclusions). So, no one is thinking about accessibility as a “beyond compliance” strategy, and this is where builidng professionals have failed.

    … which brings me to an idea —
    I would like to write an open letter to the International Living Futures Institute (more on why this organization to be discussed/posted later) to point out some of the concerns that we’ll discuss in our panel later this morning in order to hopefully bring more awareness into the field of sustainable architecture.

  3. Johanna, I agree that architectural and built environment professionals and clients tend to keep sustainability and inclusive design in different ‘boxes’. But a lot of sustainability principles include social justice as a central element – its rather feels that sustainable design only focuses on the technical and is (mainly) avoiding the social/cultural/equality dimension; and that this could be a point of challenge. How might architects, for example, embed socially sustainable practices into their design?

    When we were developing prototype educational resources to use with architectural and built environment students on disability and design, we suggested some alternative manifestos – one of which (only slightly tongue-in-cheek and based on the CittaSlow movement) was for Slow Space –

    This is also developed in “Doing Disability Differently: an alternative handbook on architecture, dis/ability and designing for everyday life” –

    • Thanks for sharing these resources! I wasn’t aware of the CittaSlow movement, but am now very much intrigued. I wouldn’t mind a bit of slowing-it-down in the design process, especially for the sake of better buildings.

      Are you familiar with the technical report by Heather Joy Rosenberg and Joel Ann Todd titled, “Social Equity in the Built Environment: An Initial Framework and Project Examples”? ( I think the green building industry is moving towards integrating social equity into its framework, but in my opinion, it’s not there yet. The authors of this report offer some suggestions on why this might be and possible strategies for how to better integrate social equity, which as you may have guessed includes an integrative design process. Integrative design keeps popping up for me as the answer to a lot of building inadequacies (and maybe CittaSlow can help us see that?).

      From my perspective, I wish the various rating systems / certification programs did a better job of encouraging social equity as a responsible and sustainable building practice. (I say that because of how certification programs are able to promote ideas to bigger markets, not that they are the only measure or method of designing sustainably.) LEED v4 incorporates some social equity strategies into its rating system, and the Living Building Challenge, as the authors of the report point out, includes an Equity category (although honestly, I was hoping for more with this category from LBC). I’m not as familiar with BREEAM, but I think this is a popular green building rating system in the UK. Does it do a better job of including social equity/justice?

  4. Pingback: Welcome | Sustaining Access

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s