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Universal Design

Hopedale Town Hall Ramp/Terrace Renovation

The Hopedale Town Hall houses the local government of Hopedale, Massachusetts, population 6,000, an hour’s drive west of Boston.  The town hall, built in 1886, is a Fine Richardsonian Romanesque structure. The historic building was well preserved and needed an access ramp befitting its gray granite character.

The solution involved removing the three sets of stairs leading up to each entrance door, and replacing them with a terrace extending the length of the façade.  The terrace is 10 feet deep and 69 feet long, constructed of the same quality of concrete as the original building.  At the far left corner of the façade, the concrete slab ramp built into the terrace is 17.5 feet long and 4.5 feet wide.  The one-way ramp is pitched at 1:12 slope and two stairways are built into the terrace.  One is at the far right side for pedestrians approaching from that direction.  The other is in front of the dominant entrance with arched doors to the town council offices and meeting room.  From the street, one notices that the facing of the terrace is light gray granite to match granite in the original wall. The three steps leading up to the arched entryway are done in pale red granite, echoing the deep red granite of the original archway and other trim.  The ramp handrails, the two sets of stairway handrails, and the new guardrails along the terrace were designed to visually complement the building’s cast iron windows.

The Hopedale Town Hall ramp/terrace renovation exemplifies the simple intuitive use of principle.  The ramp provides simple straightforward access into the three main spaces in the building.  When a wheelchair user enters the council meeting room with an able-bodied person, they are able to use the stairway and ramp at the same time.  The design of the new ramp is an integrated element of the structure in terms of its sensitivity to the historic building context and its use of similar materials. The concrete slab is very smooth and less slippery due to the weather.  The ramp design makes an equitable use for both wheelchair-bound and baby carriage users to enter the building.  The wide space of the ramp is flexibility for a wheel chair user to move upward and downward.  The clear space for the wheelchair turning around is more than 60 inches diameter between the entrance door and the ramp rail.  The turning space also accommodates a wheelchair user to reach forward the door.

The Hopedale Town Hall Ramp/Terrace Renovation project has been recognized in the National Endowment for the Arts award program, Images of Universal Design in December 1996, and received Commendation Award, an accessible design in public architecture award, from Massachusetts Architectural Access Board in 2005.