Gabriel Fries-Briggs


Pedagogies of building systems in architectural education are traditionally framed as the technical knowledge guiding construction, material applications, structures, and mechanical building services. This paper provides a framework and a case study for centering inclusive and universal design principles in the teaching of building systems with a focus on designing public spaces for rural and aging populations. It proposes methods for integrating design accountability, sustainable environmental practices, and cultural contexts into architectural design and education.
Public spaces, services, and resources are spread thinly outside of cities and denser communities, creating barriers to access for aging populations among others. This pedagogical framework for inclusive rural architecture focuses on post offices as one of the few public institutions in rural communities and a vital conduit to essential services (particularly during health crises). In the speculative space of architecture curriculum, students conceived of additional services and programs to rethink the role of post offices in communities. These programs targeted accessibility barriers by providing digital resource centers, transportation hubs, and community gathering spaces.
The flexibility, adaptability, and comfort at the core of universal design principles provide a lens for understanding sustainable environmental techniques. Adaptable buildings constructed with replaceable and reusable parts allow for repair and resiliency over time. Material and structural systems designed for intuitive use and presentation of information promote accessible communication. Passive systems design enables comfort in dialog with the environment and a reduction in required energy. However as passive systems often require building operability, inclusive design principles call for building systems to be operable by diverse users. Post office projects in this case study integrated universal design principles to achieve energy efficient buildings that respond to changing climates and rural cultural contexts.
Replacing minimum standards for accessibility within curricula with inclusive design criteria is also enacted through methodologies. While educational institutions are clustered in urban areas, many students come from or have ties to rural communities. The focus on rural public spaces and aging populations is a means for students to bring their own diverse backgrounds, places of origin, and histories into their academic studies. In combining methods of engaged research with a universal design-focused pedagogy for building systems, students expand technical knowledge of architectural design with the objective of creating equitable and inclusive public spaces.


Read the full article in accessible html-format here.


How to Cite
Fries-Briggs, G. (2022) “Inclusive Rural Spaces in Architecture Education”, The Journal of Public Space, 7(2), pp. 117–134. doi: 10.32891/jps.v7i2.1465.
Author Biography

Gabriel Fries-Briggs, University of New Mexico

Gabriel Fries-Briggs is an architectural designer, educator, and Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning. His work examines historical and contemporary architectural problems in contact with new techniques of imaging, production, and coordinated labor. Gabriel is a creator of Reimaging, a project and platform that cultivates representation futures for architectural production. He co-founded 2426, a space in Los Angeles that combines the production and exhibition of new architectural works. He previously taught at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gabriel has written about architecture for the journals Project, Pidgin, ARPA, Room One Thousand, and elsewhere and contributed to the books How to Level a Foundation (2017) and Robotic Fabrication in Architecture, Art and Design (Springer 2014). He is the director of Descriptive Services, an architectural practice exploring digital culture, material processes, and contemporary techniques of description. 


A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service (2021) ‘A People’s Postal Agenda’, People’s Postal Summit [online]. Available at: https://www.postaltimes.com/postalnews/a-peoples-postal-agenda/. (Accessed 02 January 2022).

Acemoglu, D., Moscona, J., and Robinson, J. A. (2016) ‘State Capacity and American Technology: Evidence from the 19th Century’, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series, Working Paper 21932.

Adamkiewicz, G., Zota, A. R., Fabian, M. P., Chahine, T., Julien, R., Spengler, J. D., and Levy, J. I. (2011) ‘Moving Environmental Justice Indoors: Understanding Structural Influences on Residential Exposure Patterns in Low-Income Communities’, American Journal of Public Health, 101(S1), p. S238-S245.

Akrich, M. (1997) ‘The De-Scription of Technical Objects’ in Bijker, W.E. and Law, J. (Eds.) Shaping Technology / Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, Cambridge/London: The MIT Press, p. 205-224.

Altomonte, S., Rutherford, P., and Wilson, R. (2014) ‘Mapping the Way Forward: Education for Sustainability in Architecture and Urban Design’, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 21, p. 143-154.

Asmervik, S. (2009) ‘Teaching Universal Design to students of architecture’, in Vavik, T. (ed.) Inclusive Buildings, Products & Services: Challenges in Universal Design. Trondheim: Tapir Academic Press, p. 74-102.

Bachmann, L. R. (2003) Integrated Buildings: The Systems Basis of Architecture. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Basnak, M., Tauke, B., and Weidemann, S. (2015) ‘Universal design in architectural education: Who is doing it? How is it being done?’ ARCC 2015: Future of Architectural Research.

Battarbee, K. and Koskinen, I. (2005) ‘Co-experience: user experience as interaction’, CoDesign, 1(1), p. 5–18.

Blevins, C. (2021) Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West. New York: Oxford University Press.

Brand, S. (1994) How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built. New York: Viking Press.

Breymann, G. A. (1890) Baukonstruktionslehre. Vol. 1-5. Leipzig: Gebhartd's Verlag.

Chandler, J. R. and Vassigh, S. (2011) Building Systems Integration for Enhanced Energy Performance. Fort Lauderdale: J. Ross Publishing.

CRPD (2006) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Cromartie, J. (2020) ‘Demographic Components of Aging in the Nonmetropolitan U.S., 1980-2017’, in Glick, J. E., McHale, S. M., and King, V. (eds.) Rural Families and Communities in the United States: Facing Challenges and Leveraging Opportunities. New York: Springer, p145-166.

Fournier, C. (2017) ‘Critical thresholds: Traversing architectural pedagogy, research, and practice’, in The Journal of Public Space, 2(3), p. 1-6.

Glasgow, N. and Brown, D. L. (2012) ‘Rural ageing in the United States: Trends and contexts’ Journal of Rural Studies, 28(4), p. 422-431.

Hahn, H. (1988) ‘The Politics of Physical Differences: Disability and Discrimination’, Journal of Social Issues, 44(1), p. 39-47.

Harrison, J., Busby, K., and Horgan, L (2015) ‘Promoting Universal Design in Architectural Education’, Universal Design in Education, Dublin, Ireland, 12-13 November, 2015.

Heyda, P. (2002) ‘A dismantled post office destroys more than mail service’, The Conversation, 18 August [online]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/a-dismantled-post-office-destroys-more-than-mail-service-144330 (Accessed: 12 September 2021)

John, R. R. (1995) Spreading the News. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

King, K. (2005) ‘Meeting the Minimums and Missing the Point’, in Pressman, A. (ed.) Professional Practice 101, 2nd Edition. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, p. 366-368.

Kishimoto, K. (2018) ‘Anti-racist pedagogy: from faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom’, Race Ethnicity and Education, 21(4), p. 540-554.

Koff, T. H. (1977) ‘Service Needs, Environmental Resources and Quality of Life’, in Journal of Architectural Education, 31(1), p. 5-16.

Mace, R. et al (1997) ‘The Principles of Universal Design’, North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Moe, K. and Smith, R. (2012) ‘Introduction: Systems, Technics, and Society’ in Building Systems: Design Technology and Society. London: Routledge, p. 1–10.

NAAB, National Architectural Accrediting Board. (2020) Conditions for Accreditation, 2020 Edition.

Latour, B. (1991) ‘Technology is Society Made Durable’ in Law, J. (ed) A Sociology of Monsters Essays on Power, Technology and Domination. Sociological Review Monograph, 38, p. 103-132.

Leskovar, V. Z. (2020) ‘Interdisciplinarity in Academic Education on Sustainable Built Environment’ in Klemenčič, Leskovar, V. Z., and V. S., Žigart, M. (eds) An Interdisciplinary Approach Towards Academic Education on Sustainable Building Design. New York: Nova Science Publishers, p. 1-29.

Morrissey, M. (2020) ‘The war against the Postal Service’, Economic Policy Institute Report, 16 December [online]. Available at: https://www.epi.org/publication/the-war-against-the-postal-service/ (Accessed: 07 December 2021).

NCAI (2020) ‘Indian Country Demographics’, National Congress of American Indians [online]. Available at: https://www.ncai.org/about-tribes/demographics. (Accessed 03 January 2022).

The New York Times Editorial Board (2021), ‘Democrat or Republican, You Probably Love the Post Office’, The New York Times, 28 May 2021 [online]. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/28/opinion/post-office-postal-service.html. (Accessed 14 December 2021).

Paris, D. (2012) ‘Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy : A Needed Change in Stance, Terminology, and Practice’, Educational Researcher, 41(3), p. 93-97.

PEW (2006) Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change. Pew Center on Global Climate Change and Pew Center on the States.

Pollard, M. S. and Davis, L. M. (2020) ‘The Role of the United States Postal Service in the Age of COVID-19’, Rand Corporation Research Reports [online]. Available at
https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA308-5.html. (Accessed 02 January 2022).

Pursel, B. (2005) ‘The Digital Divide’ in Information, People, and Technology. The Pennsylvania State University Open Resource Publishing [online]. Available at: https://psu.pb.unizin.org/ist110/chapter/9-3-the-digital-divide/. (Accessed 13 September 2021).

Santini, T. (2020) ‘Guilty by Association: Addressing Sustainability in Architecture Education’, Environmental Science and Sustainable Development, 5(2), p. 60-70.

Singh B., Risanger S., Morton D., Pignone M., Meyers L. A. (2021) ‘Expanding Access to COVID-19 Tests through US Postal Service Facilities’, Medical Decision Making, 41(1), p. 3-8.

Smarsh, S. (2020) ‘America’s postal service is a rural lifeline—and it’s in jeopardy’, National Geographic, 9 October 2020 [online]. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/rural-post-office. (Accessed 12 December 2021).

Smith, J. L., Cech, E., Metz, A., Huntoon, M., and Moyer, C. (2014). ‘Giving back or giving up: Native American student experiences in science and engineering’, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20(3), p. 413–429.

Solomon, D., Baradaran, M., and Roberts, L. (2020) ‘Creating a Postal Banking System Would Help Address Structural Inequality’, Center for American Progress, 15 October [online]. Available at: https://www.americanprogress.org/article/creating-postal-banking-system-help-address-structural-inequality/ (Accessed: 15 December 2021).

Stewart, C. (2020) ‘How We Voted in 2020: A First Look at the Survey of the Performance of American Elections’, MIT Election Data + Science Lab, 15 December [online]. Available at: http://electionlab.mit.edu/sites/default/files/2020-12/How-we-voted-in-2020-v01.pdf. (Accessed 15 December 2021).

Szewczenko, A. and Widzisz-Pronobis, S. (2020) ‘Implementing Inclusive Design in Architectural Education and Design Practice’, IOP Conference Series Materials Science and Engineering.

Taylor, S, D., Veri, M., Eliason, M., Hermoso, J. C. R., Bolter, N. D., and Van Olphen, J. E. (2019) ‘The Social Justice Syllabus Design Tool: A First Step in Doing Social Justice Pedagogy’, Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity, 5(2), p. 133-166.

Terry, L. M. (2008) ‘Camp Aldersgate: A New Model for Architectural Education’, in Preiser, W. F. E. and Smith, K. H. (eds.) Universal Design Handbook, 2nd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 40.1-40.10.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015) World Population Ageing 2015. New York: United Nations.

U.S. Access Board (2021) ‘U.S. Access Board Resolves 38 Architectural Barriers Act Cases Through Corrective Action in FY 2021’, 30 November [online]. Available at: https://www.access-board.gov/news/2021/11/30/u-s-access-board-resolves-38-architectural-barriers-act-cases-through-corrective-action-in-fy-2021/. (Accessed 7 January 2022).

U.S. Census Bureau (2016) ‘New Census Data Show Differences Between Urban and Rural Populations’, American Community Survey: 2011-2015. Available at: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-210.html.
The U.S. Census Bureau (2017) ‘2017 New Mexico State Population Trends’ [online]. Available at: https://www.census.gov/about/partners/sdc/projects/nm-state-sdc.html. (Accessed 03 January 2022).

USPS (n.d.) ‘Architectural Barriers Act of 1968: Notice of Rights’, United States Postal Service [online]. Available at: https://about.usps.com/who/legal/arch-barriers-act/welcome.htm. (Accessed 14 December 2021).

USDA (2018) Rural America at A Glance, 2018 Edition. United States Department of Agriculture.

USPS (2019) ‘FY2019 Annual Report to Congress’, United States Postal Service [online]. Available at: https://about.usps.com/what/financials/annual-reports/fy2019.pdf. (Accessed 15 December 2021).

USPS (2021) ‘Pieces of Mail Handled, Number of Post Offices, Income, and Expenses Since 1789’, United States Postal Service Historian, February 2021 [online]. Available at: https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/pieces-of-mail-since-1789.pdf. (Accessed 17 December, 2021).

Welch, P. and Palames, C. (1995) ‘A Brief History of Disability Rights Legislation in the United States’, in Strategies for Teaching Universal Design. Boston: Adaptive Environments Center, p. 5-12.

Welch, P. and Jones, S. (2001) ‘Advances in Universal Design Education in the United States’, in Preiser, W. and Ostroff, E. (eds.) Universal Design Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 51.3-51.24.

WHO (2020) The Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020–2030. World Health Organization.