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Being Inclusive in an Isolated World through 3d modeling

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, we immediately knew things were going to be different going forward and our first thought was, “How can we be inclusive in an isolated world?” Our Accessibility and GIS specialist, Marilu Tavagna, recalled her experiences in architecture school and helped bring our vision to life. We set up an interview with her to highlight her and her journey to 3D model creation for people with visual disabilities.

I know you made a 3D model to help people with visual disabilities understand a new street project. I’ll ask you about that later but first, what is your background?

I always wanted to be an architect. As a kid, I was always creating something with Legos or cardboard. I grew up in a medieval castle tower built in 1343 in the ancient city of Vicenza, North Italy. During the weekends I used to visit all the medieval castles and the villas that characterized the Veneto region.

Where did you study Architecture?

Public School Campus 3D Model by Marilu Tavagna
Public School Campus 3D Model by Marilu Tavagna

At eighteen years old, I moved to Venice and started school at IUAV (Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia). A couple of years later, while studying, I started creating architectural models. First, through an internship by an urban planning firm and later, on commission for different companies. I liked playing with different materials and tools and imagining being a tiny creature that could walk in these silent and timeless structures.

So, what did you do next?

I later specialized in Geographical Information Science and Geodatabase. I moved to Switzerland and started working for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Childcare Nursery 3D Model by Marilu Tavagna
Childcare Nursery 3D Model by Marilu Tavagna

When did you arrive here in Austin?

We arrived in 2015 and as soon as I got my visa, I started working at Altura Solutions. I found collaboratio

n with the Altura team and a way to explore that social aspect of sustainability that I didn’t really absorb until then. My focus now is trying to make people with all abilities feel welcome everywhere and not scared by the built environment….and guess what …I started with my old passion again!

Lastly, tell us about the 3D model you designed and created for those with visual disabilities!

We developed a 3D model using balsa wood for a street redesign project, which was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the project was to send the model by mail to people with vision disabilities and make them aware of the new changes before facing them outside on the street. The model is mainly made of wood but on the outer layer it is composed by different materials that differentiate each part of the structure by a peculiar texture, so you can use your finger to feel the transition from one section to the other.

This project could be repeated or improved creating new opportunities for people with visual disabilities to help them understand new projects before being physically there. I want everyone to feel comfortable in a new environment and I am glad that I could put the skills I’ve learned along the way to fruition!

Tactile Model for People with Visual Disabilities
Tactile Model for People with Visual Disabilities

Visual Diagram of the Tactile Model
Visual Diagram of the Tactile Model

Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or want further guidance on this or any other accessibility issue! (512) 410-7059

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