Originally from the North Coast of Northern Ireland, Lesley is a PhD Research Student at the Dundee School of Architecture. She has worked in Architectural practice in New York and Northern Ireland as well as in Edinburgh and Dundee and has gathered valuable experience and skills that transpire into her work as she develops an Architect and a Researcher.
In 2006-2007 she was a member of the "Fieldwork Unit" set up by Professor Kathryn Findlay as a practice-led design research unit within the School of Architecture. This unit was a vehicle for Masters Students of Architecture to explore practice-led research in relation to live projects. Lesley graduated with Distinction from the M.Arch. programme in 2007. Her research contribution focussed on issues of sensorial experience, non-visual appreciation and way finding in complex architectural environments.
This project explores the needs of a visually impaired person whilst finding their way through a building. The Royal National Institute for Blind People has recognised that the built environment fails to instil confidence in visually impaired people in regard to way finding. They have averred that, "Too often token planning gesture towards disabled people seems to add cynicism to thoughtlessness: the ramp that provides wheelchair access to an un-negotiable building; the Braille invitation into an environment that, once entered, proves positively hostile to visually impaired people." (Royal National Institute for the Blind and Baker, 1999) This reinforces the need for a comprehensive architectural approach to designing way finding systems for those who have limited sight.
The research will investigate: circulation, spatial orientation, programmatic clarity and study how the fundamentals of architecture relate to the non-visual experience of way finding. With both pragmatics and non-visual aesthetics in mind, the aim will be to provide architects with strategies to enable people with visual impairment to find their way around, in effective and emotionally satisfying ways.