Sensory perfection

Sian
Sunday 28 Feb 2010

Advance Special Needs Education Center is the first building to apply 'sensory design theory' to its architecture

It is estimated that 1 in every 150 children, regardless of colour, class or culture, fall within the spectrum of autism. Despite this overwhelming prevalence, very little information is available on how to design for these unique individuals. This project sets out to begin bridging this gap.

Based on the 'sensory design theory' first published by Special Needs Design Associate, Magda Mostafa, this building is the first to utilise the theory’s concepts. Building on the premise of architecture as a sensory environment and a source of controllable stimulation- spatial organisation, acoustics, texture, colour, pattern and lighting. Principal architect Ashraf Tawfik translates this evidence based research into a creative and conducive environment for children with autism.

Using concepts such as sensory zoning, spatial sequencing & compartmentalisation, transitional sensory space, graduated acoustical treatment and the provision of 'escape' spaces, this husband & wife team, design a building based firmly in research, that utilises the site efficiently to house services for up to 100 students and 200 teachers and administrators.

In addition to classrooms, the design provides therapy areas, a diagnostic centre, sports centre, sensory garden and assisted living residence for up to 20 students. Working closely with the client, this program was carefully developed and organised to create a building that is sustainable in its sensitivity to the unique and complex needs of autism and unique in its creative inclusion of this otherwise largely marginalised user group.

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