Written by Ben Ikenson.
When Berkeley, California, residents Fran and her husband, Chris, first contacted architect Erick Mikiten, they were facing the difficult choice of either selling their beloved home or pursuing extensive remodeling to include the addition of an elevator. If they were going to hang onto their century-old Craftsman-inspired residence in the Berkeley Hills, it would need to better accommodate Fran, whose multiple sclerosis was severely limiting her mobility.
Now three years after a remodel by Mikiten, they have no regrets: “Erick’s ideas were radically different than the other architects we consulted because he didn’t separate accessibility from the overall design,” says Fran. “Our home now far exceeds anything we could have imagined.”
The Berkeley architect is uniquely qualified when it comes to universal design, an approach to creating places that considers the needs of everyone—regardless of age, size, or physical and cognitive ability. For more than three decades, he’s been building a diverse portfolio of residential, commercial, and multifamily projects, including much-needed local affordable housing. And he’s been navigating it all from the vantage of his wheelchair.
In fact, it was his disability that steered him toward design, he says. Osteogenesis imperfecta causes bones to easily fracture or break, so Mikiten spent a lot of time during childhood convalescing at home, contemplating and making drawings of the physical spaces he occupied.
Today, even though it’s been 33 years since the legislation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, introduced just a year before he established his practice, the architect still sees plenty of room for improvement in his industry. And he is determined to fill that space.