Located in Portobello, Edinburgh is the innovative and award winning “Ramp House”; a two storey wheelchair accessible family home that is formed around a 28 meter long ramp. The house is the creation of husband and wife architects, Ian and Thea McMillan. Ian and Thea became their own clients to design a ‘self build’ family home to be inclusive for a young wheelchair user; their daughter Greta.

Inclusive Principles

The core principle of The Ramp House was to design and build a family home that would enable Gret a to live in a barrier-free domestic environment. This contrasts with the unpredictable physical barriers of the external built environment. The family had lived in Portobello since Greta was born, and it was important for the new build to be located in the same friendly and supportive community. As Thea explains; “We wanted an accessible house in the community we live in, and it’s important that people with disability aren’t pushed to the outskirts”. Once a site location was identified in Portobello, the next phase was to design the home.

Innovative Design

Due to the size of the plot of land, it was not possible to create an adequate, inclusive environment on one level. Inspired by the architecture of Denmark and the Netherlands, Ian and Thea designed a two-storey inclusive house that is entirely wheelchair accessible by an unfolding 28 meter long ramp.
To ensure that Greta could experience the same spaces as the rest of the family, it was decided to opt for a ramp with a 1:8 gradient, rather than a lift. Thea explains how the ramp is designed to interact with various spaces as it unfolds;

The Difference that the ramp makes is in how the spaces are experienced; this is both linear and sectional, and allows opportunities to look back or forward into other spaces. If Greta is in the living room, there are six difference spaces we can be in and move between, and she is still able to see and hear us.


A key stage of the design process is to engage with end users. Ian and Thea ensured that their two daughters were included throughout the design process. This was achieved through continuous discussions and interaction with small scale architectural models. The models were made from a variety of materials including; wood, marzipan and wool. Through continuous engagement the McMillan’s have been able to create an inclusive environment that meets the requirements of each family member.

Awards & Recognition

The Ramp House took 10 months to build. Since its completion the wheelchair accessible home has proved to be a delight to live in. Not only adored by the family, The Ramp House has also received awards and recognition for its innovative design. This includes awards from the Edinburgh Architectural Association, Scottish Design Awards, Scottish Home Awards and a commendation from the Royal Incorporation of Chartered Surveyors.

The success of The Ramp House resulted in Ian and Thea setting up Chambers McMillan; a new architectural practice that specialises in inclusive, barrier architecture.

For further information please contact

Chambersmcmillan Architects
9e Bellfield Lane Portobello Edinburgh EH15
Tel – 0131 669 5766
Mob – 07717131287
Email – chambersmcmillan@icloud.
Web – www.cmcmarchitects.com