Streamline is a group project, completed for design studio IV
Can we as designers create a system so functional, beautiful, and inclusive for those with ASD that it becomes a staple of universal design? Our main goal is to make the built environment a comfortable space for users on the Autism spectrum without simply removing all stimuli. In order to encourage independence, we focused on the ease of movement throughout the space, easily identifying functions and amenities, and providing variety. Our solution is to create a simple, yet highly functional spaces that can be universally enjoyed as well as give ASD users real life experience.
The large spectrum of Autism traits can make a simple design solution nearly impossible for all users. This dilemma is what we will strive to resolve through inspiration from Le Corbusier. A key element of his logic was the viewer’s ability to recognize and identify form through subtle means. His movement of purism was ultimately the reduction of objects to elementary forms, devoid of detail.
Those who lie on the spectrum can either be hyper or hypo-sensitive to sensory activities such as sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Through our design solutions we strive to reduce frustrations associated with stimuli without removing them completely. This will provide users with an easier transition into independent living from the comfort of their home.
Mental health has recently moved to the forefront of design and has sparked interest in the disconnect between the built environment and nature. Throughout his exploration of connecting man back to nature, Corbusier advocated the importance of natural light in a space. The corridor connecting the multi-purpose room to the outdoor courtyard is lined with skylight openings to reduce flight behaviors and provide transition into the sunlight. A wall feature of live moss will line the corridor in order to improve air quality, provide new stimuli, and ease the users into a new space. Corbusier believed that ‘taking man back to nature’ was essential to our well-being.
Our floor plan reflects the modern philosophy ‘form follows function’ through Corbusier inspired shapes and lines. The curved walls eliminate surprises around corners, which are alarming for ASD individuals, as well as guide them through the space. In order to not distract users and provide an easy transition into the facility we allowed the trainer’s office to create a partition between the reception entryway and the large multi-purpose room.
Those who suffer from ASD can become easily overwhelmed with stimuli. Studies suggest having small-scale spaces for retreat can aid in decompressing their anxiety. Our large multi-use room will include custom furniture that mimics the curved lines of our floor plan to give users a haven of retreat if they should become uncomfortable during activities.
Incorporating aspects of the outdoors can provide stimuli in which seamlessly transition indoor to outdoor spaces. Through our careful selection of non-toxic materials, we will provide a warm learning environment that feels less clinical and more home-like. Bamboo, cork, natural paint, and marmoleum are a few of the organic selections incorporated into the interior. By creating a pallet of light natural materials we create a contrast that isn’t overwhelming or distracting.
The broad spectrum of sensitivities that are associated with Autism pose the dilemma of creating a ‘universal design.’ In evaluating each of the senses we carefully assessed how we could provide specific accommodations for each user. By providing options for variety we give the user a sense of comfort and confidence in their ability to achieve independence.
As interior designers, one of our responsibilities is to enhance the human experience. This poses a unique challenge when considering the variety of users who will occupy a space. How do we create an environment that facilitates a positive experience for those with ASD and neurotypical users alike?
Materials such as the cork flooring and felt wall coverings provide additional sound absorption in work spaces in order to minimize distractions and provide texture differences. Pink noise, found in natural systems such as heartbeats, will be provided to mask background sound. Ergonomic furniture specified from Herman Miller will occupy the high activity rooms and acclimate users to a variety of seating. Fabric covering specified by Carnegie fabrics are durable and easily sanitized.
Studies have shown the harmful effects of fluorescent lighting on those with ASD due to its harshness and associated hum which can be distracting to users. Incandescent, natural, and task lighting will be provided throughout the facility as well as the option to dim overhead lights in each individual space. A variety of soft colored lighting as well as fiber optic toys will be used to provide stimuli within the sensory room.
For visual orientation, each room has been assigned its own unique color. An adjustable LED cove light will wrap the exterior of each room that will reflect the matching color signage of each station. This will help eliminate confusion and provide color association which will be carried throughout the interiors.
Ceiling heights vary from room to room to create areas of more focused concentration, to allow for less distractions and noise interference, and make stations easily identifiable. Acoustical drop down features will absorb noise in spaces with taller ceiling heights.