December 9, 2019 Our Stories 0 Comments
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After 40 years of working with survivors of domestic violence, the volunteer support for Barrier Free Living’s programs is stronger than ever.
Case in point: Sophie Horrocks, a student in Global Innovation Design who discovered our agency and wanted to use her skills to support our mission.  She signed on to spruce up the lounge at our BFL Apartments program in the Bronx
The project, completed in a month, garnered incredible results. (Before and After photos of the BFL Apartments Lounge above.)
We spoke to Sophie before she left New York, heading back to London where she lives.
BFL: What first led you to Barrier Free Living? 
SophieI was actually reaching out to local New York charities for another project I was working on, and Barrier Free Living was one which I was interested in speaking to. Whilst discussing the other project I was put in touch with Scott who mentioned their desire to work with a designer for the group room – in his words – kismet!

BFL: Why did you want to volunteer and what were your first thoughts as you approached the project?

Sophie: I strongly believe that the design of our environment impacts our mental and physical health; this belief is validated by scientific research. The impact that could be achieved by improving this particular environment seemed to have such great value that I couldn’t say no. Being able to offer my skills as a designer to indirectly help such a worthwhile cause seemed the least I could do.

BFL: What have been some of the challenges of the job and how did you overcome them?

Sophie: One of the biggest challenges was to meeting commercial standard requirements of materials – which would be suitable for a healthcare environment without being able to make any permanent changes to the room and whilst sticking to budget. This took a fair bit of material research to resolve, particularly for the walls and flooring but I think we eventually found solutions that met all the set requirements and satisfied all parties!

BFL: What is the biggest sense of satisfaction around completing the job?

Sophie: The very short time frame meant that work had to move very quickly on the project, but it has been incredible to see how much has been achieved. Especially considering the clear out and build only took place under 7 days! It could not have been done without the incredible support from the Barrier Free Living team though.

BFL: Any unexpected surprises along the way?

Sophie: Maybe not so much a surprise, but one of the greatest pleasures I’ve had from working on the project has been meeting the wonderful team and staff behind the incredible work being done at Barrier Free Living. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the work that they do, and I have been bowled over by their support for me whilst I have been working on the room. I hope that the new room design can be (even if small) a demonstration of appreciation to the team.

BFL: Final thoughts:

Sophie: I have learnt so much from my experience on this project, particularly about designing for a space which demands consideration for such a vast range of needs and restrictions. I am currently working on a design guidebook which I hope will enable other charities working in similar environments with similar restrictions to use the same design principles to be able to transform their environments for improved mental and physical health.

Sophie (above, working on the BFL Apartment’s lounge) is a designer and creative researcher working at the intersection of design, science, technology and craft. After graduating from her bachelor’s degree in Textile Design she spent two years working at The Fabrick Lab in Hong Kong where she developed cutting-edge materials for experimental installations and bespoke interior environments. She is currently studying for her MA/MSc in Global Innovation Design at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College in London where she is continuing to challenge her practice; focusing on material design for health and wellness applications.

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