Designing for Special Needs

Special needs is a subject with bucket loads of emotion for all involved; frustration, triumph, loneliness, friendship, anger, appreciation, pride and respect; but for me the emotion is joy. I am privileged to design schools for pupils with special needs, and there are many reasons I should be happy about it.

For a start I am designing for people who are passionate about what they do, and care about what I can do for them.

Secondly the brief is developed through close consultation, gradually getting to understand the school’s vision, the approach to teaching and learning; welfare and socialisation; safety and security; tailoring the design to suit specific requirements.

Thirdly there is a variety of spaces; rooms for sport, science, art, drama, technology, music, and dining, as well as physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and hygiene; so plenty of opportunity for visual interest and excitement.

Fourth is the feeling of community, of family, of care and compassion that runs through these organisations; it’s impressive, inspiring, and wonderful to become a part of it, even if it is just for a while.

Finally, these are places of joy. I am sure there are moments of sadness, but my overriding impression is of pupils enjoying themselves, enthusiastic staff, and parents who are passionate about their school.
People often complain about inefficiency and waste in the public sector, but this is one area we can be proud of; we all contribute through our taxes; it’s nice to know your money’s well spent.

DKA designed Exeter House School


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