Engineering architecture students designed and built inclusive outdoor furniture

(02-02-2022) An outdoor area that's adapted to their needs is essential for children with autism. How can you design a stimulating outdoor enviroment which offers some peace of mind at the same time? Our students engineering architecture made it work!

Inclusief meubilair (vergrote weergave)

For this project they cooperated with specialists on autism, the city of Ghent and the team of Kwadrant (school for children with special needs). Thanks to Decomo and FEBE they were able to actually realize and build 3 designs for the school.

Kwadrant is a cityschool in Ghent that provides special eduction for 72 students between 12 and 17 with autism spectrum disorder. This comes with special needs, also for their playground area. The needs of this group are very diverse: one student likes to have an overview of the whole playground, whereas another one prefers a more secluded area. The team of teachers also need to have an overview on the outdoor area and all outdoor furniture needs to be sturdy and robust.

The outdoor area needs to provide several forms or use and interaction for the students. The designers must take into account the impact of various stimuli, such as sounds and visual impulses.

While designing for students with ASD it is essential to understand how they interact with each other and their enviroment. While there has already been a lot of research on ASD, it is necessary to take a critical look at all the available information. Moreover, most literature focusses on children between 3-12 years old. 

Unique about this project is it's versatile approach. Seven teams of students engineering architecture, led by prof. Nathan Van Den Bossche, received input from psychologist and professor Herbert Roeyers, whose research is about ASD,  orthopedagogic specialists from Ghent Universiy and HoGent, an Egyptian interior designer, a study bureau from Paris and the student counsellors of Kwadrant.

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Photo: Project 'Sitting Together Apart'

The results of the project are very diverse. Some teams designed seating furniture, others made a total concept for the outdoor area and one group thought of a fantastic concept to restructure the whole outdoor are by using 3 subtle tile designs.

Both Kwadrant and the city of Ghent were pleasantly surprised by the results, which they forwarded to the projectteam studying the renovation of the campus site. The designs are not only relevant for Kwadrant but they add value to all schools on campus. Who know if one or more designs will be implemented in the future?

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Why wait? The realisation of several prototypes!

Thanks to concrete specialist Decomo and concrete federation FEBE, it was possible to build several prototypes. The students refined their designs together with Decomo and FEBE and were able to proceed with the realisation of their projects. In the end two student projects were chosen to be built by Decomo and the mock-up was placed on the schoolgrounds of Kwadrant. 

Team Kwadrant: "Our students love the furniture designs. Students who are overstimulated, use them as a place to calm down. They call this the '"chill area". (talking about the block in granite and the concept of "sitting together apart"). The furniture "M¨¨öbl" has become their favorite place to chat, because it's a place where they come "together". Mission accomplished!

The furniture proved to be a great succes! We're curious about the design for the renovation of the campus. This project was a fascinating initiative for all those involved and it proves the potential when several disciplines work together to tackle social challenges.

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Photo: Group 'Möble' and their project