Development of the project of an innovative barrier-free standard kitchen was aimed at creating a kitchen layout which is universally accessible and liveable and therefore satisfies different accessibility and use requirements for people with reduced mobility or for the "differently abled".
Friendly Kitchen: a barrier-free kitchen you can enjoy to the full
Starting with the concept of "Human - Centered Design", the idea was to identify user needs and product requirements together, developing alternative projects to satisfy these requirements and create interactive prototypes.
The project began with analysis of user requirements for interaction with the kitchen space and in relation to the most frequent difficulties and dysfunctions. This identified possible points for the design of solutions which not only facilitate users' lives, but also reduce or even eliminate the effects of these dysfunctions.
This analysis was used to define spatial distribution of the modules within the kitchen environment, taking a modular approach to the problem to ensure maximum flexibility and adaptability to the new standard.
Ergonomics and "Design For All"
After analysing the various modules forming the kitchen by seeking the right measurements, Concept Design was started, through which it was possible to define the ergonomic models of the various functional elements, giving them a shape and embodiment which also included components and accessories. The “Design For All” philosophy was adopted to identify the concept, seeking to satisfy the various user needs even in limit cases, ensuring flexibility and adaptability of the structure to all needs and ensuring they could be adapted to the physiological changes caused by age. This is why a modular but technically feasible structure was created, through the combination of traditional components, appropriate dimensions and features, structurally simple elements, to ensure technical feasibility and functional assembly with dimensions which could be adapted to different needs. The solution adopted (island structure), despite requiring more space, which could be a limit, nonetheless guarantees a high degree of freedom combined, with appropriate changes, with the ability to be adapted to any need. This layout is extremely innovative, since no similar solutions currently exist, as all products for this user target have a linear layout. As emerged from previous analysis, the sink, store cupboard and cooking area are the three focal points of the kitchen and the areas where all stages of food preparation are performed. The food preparation area has therefore been placed on the island element, which is central with respect to the other modules, in order to reduce movements to a minimum. The sink and cooking modules are also on the island element, while the kitchen unit resting against the wall serves principally as the store cupboard. The island structure has been designed with simple but structurally solid elements, appropriately arranged and shaped to suit the intended use, guaranteeing overall stability, both in terms of resistance to load and resistance to bending of the worktop. The technicians therefore examined, analysed and defined: the type, materials and thickness of the metal elements, the layout and connection systems, the necessary expedients and rigidity and solidity solutions, etc. The structure is designed to be modular and thus to increase or reduce its dimensions according to the user's needs. One of the main difficulties in achieving this is ensuring the modularity and functionality being sought, through repetition of elementary units, while guaranteeing the maximum structural resistance and solidity requirements are satisfied.
After a careful and necessary review, adjustment and gradual creation of the prototype, this was then optimised through a complex project for the new standard kitchen, the various details and specific expedients required, particularly control of functional ergonomic and visual aspects, and lastly all the ad hoc developments which were introduced operatively to reach the targets. The two final prototypes of the program are not marketable, as they are solely for experimental use and final checking/validation of the project. Reliability tests were also performed on movements even in the most extreme operating conditions, checking whether maintenance could be performed easily. It emerged from these tests that the mechanical devices offer a good level of reliability, simplicity of use and functionality.
In conclusion, performance of the experimental activities allowed important technological advances to be obtained in the ability to design and develop a totally innovative and original kitchen layout for the sector, accessible and liveable for a large range of final users, not only those with disabilities, and therefore ideal for use in a highly competitive context such as the interior furnishing sector (not only visual and technological aspects, but also inexpensiveness, standardisation, repeatability, reliability, and effective use in future processing cycles).