Vestre steps up its initiative relating to universal meeting places

For more than 75 years, Vestre has helped to create social and inclusive meeting places for everyone. Since the company was founded in Haugesund in the 1940s, we have set up offices around the world, and we now export 70 percent of all the furniture we produce. A larger market also brings with it a more comprehensive set of regulations and more recommendations for universal design. We have reviewed these requirements and will now take them into account through updates to existing furniture and in connection with the development of new furniture.

Project support
Together with the Studio Føy design studio, we have been awarded support by Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) via the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Equality. This support was awarded for the updating of our portfolio and the development of an entirely new series in line with our new knowledge of universal design.

“Inclusive design is empathic and people-centred and offers added value for individuals, the business community and society. By creating user-friendly and attractive solutions for a wide variety of people, we produce better products, services and surroundings for everyone,” says Anette Trettebergstuen, Minister for Cultural and Equality, concerning the support that DOGA has now distributed to 18 projects with inclusive design on their agenda.

Thorough research
Vestre has always had breadth in the solutions we offer, ensuring that they are suitable for use by people with a wide variety of different needs. However, we have now delved into both updated and detailed knowledge in order to establish an even more specific and clear framework.

Together with Studio Føy, we have sought to create a new Vestre standard for universal design. The regulations and recommendations regarding universal design that apply to outdoor furniture are many, unclear and convoluted to track down, and they can also vary from country to country. Studio Føy and Vestre have therefore carried out a major preliminary project where we looked at Vestre’s five main markets. The aim was to map the applicable regulations in each market, so that we can more readily ensure that our products are universally designed. Specialist professionals have been involved in the project and we have brought in recommendations from standards in the five markets.

The preliminary project has resulted in a richly illustrated report. This report acts like a reference work and a guide, both internally and for our designers, in our development of new products or when we update existing furniture series. Based on our findings in the various markets, we have summarised Vestre's new universal design standard. This is a standard which will fulfil the recommendations applicable to all our main markets wherever possible.

Development of our product portfolio
We now want to build on the work relating to the preliminary project by investing in a major trial project. In partnership with Studio Føy, we will examine whether it is possible to design a furniture series based on Vestre’s new standard, while at the same time safeguarding Vestre’s style. If we succeed with such a main solution, we will more readily be able to avoid expensive custom solutions. This is because, once the main solution has been designed universally, customers will no longer have to adopt an active stance on it or know a lot about it—it will simply be a natural part of our product range. Applying the principles of universal design as early as the concept development stage will greatly increase the chances of succeeding in the development of a design which accommodates people with different needs.

Democratic and inclusive meeting places
Vestre believes that creating social meeting places is the best way of preventing the polarisation of society and avoiding hostility and conflict. Our furniture has a clear social and inclusive purpose, i.e. to contribute to the creation of arenas for what we call “everyday democracy”. We want to contribute to the creation of considerate meeting places where people can meet across social, cultural and financial divides. When people get to know each other, share life experiences and exchange ideas, we suddenly discover there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’; we are all the same. And it is with these democratic meeting places that we hope to change the world—one neighbourhood at a time.

Good democratic meeting places are also inclusive meeting places. The design of meeting places in our towns and cities is an important factor in determining how urban spaces are used and by whom. If social meeting places are not inclusive, i.e. universally designed, many people will be excluded from using them. Providing well-designed seats will enable people with limited mobility to use them to a greater extent and make it more attractive for people to move around more and over greater distances. Provision for activity and walking is important for public health and in order to develop good local communities—for young and old alike. Through good design, we want to contribute to the creation of meeting places that are both social and inclusive.