As we move along through the design process and case studies for our School for Autism, we have interacted with professors, parents, professionals, and people involved with autism. Recently, professors Keith and Marie Zawistowski invited Chris Henry, an autism design consultant and writer for the blog site ArchDaily. His visit included his own presentation on autistic design and an advising session while we presented 9 case studies on autistic schools and related facilities.
Chris’ presentation began by asking the one simple question we’ve all been asking, “What is a successful autism design?” The answer is still unclear but through our case studies we are carefully attempting to contribute to the field and research of autistic design. Chris continued by giving examples of schools that may have contributed to a successful design. Chris covered materials, generalization of skills for special rooms, the need for a calming environment, and spatial considerations for an autistic child such as quiet spaces, separation of autistic levels among students, and the essential desire for research.
The advising portion of his visit was amazingly helpful. Chris had in fact visited most of the case studies that were being presented and was able to give positive feedback to further our understanding of our studies and design ideas for our school.
Above all, Chris has become a crucial source and friend for the studio. To quote Chris, he stated, “Architecture is not a cure, but an intervention for autism.” From this, our designs became personal and our drive became real.
The design/buildLAB at Virginia Tech is a Project Based Experiential Learning program focused on the research, development and implementation of innovative construction methods and architectural designs. Students collaborate with local communities and industry experts to conceive and realize built architecture projects that are both educational and charitable in nature. The blog is run by design/buildLAB students, who are currently designing and building a pedestrian bridge in Clifton Forge, VA.