Contract - Designing for Health: A Spectrum of Opportunities at Camp For Autistic Youth

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Designing for Health: A Spectrum of Opportunities at Camp For Autistic Youth

28 June, 2013

-By Alexander Stewart, ASLA, LEED AP, Amy Sickeler, RID, LEED AP, Erika Morgan, LEED AP, Kimberly Rousseau, RID, LEED AP


Designers thrive on solving problems. Our goal at Perkins+Will is to turn those problems into design opportunities that inspire new environments with positive, enriching experiences.

Perkins+Will is currently designing a campus for Camp Southern Ground, a new summer camp in Fayette County, Georgia which will allow children with typical and special needs to play, learn, and grow together in a healthy and educational environment. Founded by Grammy Award-winning artist Zac Brown, the camp will host many traditional camp activities in the summer, and convert into a research and development campus for autism and other neuro-behavioral conditions for the remainder of the year. The camp also plans to host retreats and seminars to benefit the local and global community. The facilities will be constructed with sustainable features such as organic farming, and rainwater, wind, and solar harvesting.  Utilized materials will include locally renewable wood, reclaimed metals, and brick and terracotta made from local Georgia clay. “The camp will be fully leveraging green technologies wherever possible, using its sustainable features to educate all who walk their paths," said Rob Parker, president and CEO of Camp Southern Ground.

Our team is challenged to envision an environment that will socially, physically and mentally create interaction and build trust between mainstream children, children with autism spectrum disorders, and those growing up in low socio-economic homes.  Perkins+Will assembled a diverse design team comprised of architects, landscape architects, interior designers, and industrial designers to foster and realize the innovation of a visionary client who believes the camp should be a place of adventure. Camp Southern Ground will be designed to evoke feelings of wonder, surprise, discovery, enjoyment and awe.  "This camp should be built on imagination,” Brown said.

Designing a camp for children with spectrum disorders can feel daunting, especially if you are looking for a finite solution.  Embracing the word ‘spectrum’ is vital, as there is no single specific activity or space that will please everyone.  Spectrum disorders consist of many variables that can emphasize systemizing, or “the drive to analyze or construct any kind of system. The major kinds of systems are:  collectible, mechanical, numerical, abstract, natural, spatial, social, and motoric,” according to author and psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen. [1]

The variables are endless, but it is our goal to provide unique outlets for many, and to design a summer camp that will provide an experience for children that can be adapted to fit their needs and abilities. This can be achieved by supporting spectrum disorders and their aspects of systemizing, such as the need to organize ones space or to repeat an activity.

Opportunities where experiences could be customized include the use of light, color, sound, pattern, movement, texture, materials, form, enclosures versus open spaces, thresholds, paths, and rhythms.  Time, user engagement, weather, and the natural environment will also impact one’s experience.  These opportunities will be highlighted throughout the campus in gradients where particular cues pick up and then gracefully overlap with others.  

The master plan of the camp begins with two intersecting ‘spines’ that always lead children to their home lodge.  Loops spin off the spines to programs and events that allow for differing experiences.  Within the site, each district loop will have its own identity and correlating sensory gardens for programs such as art, music, technology, aquatics, health, and education. This will make the site discernible and easy to navigate.  For a child who has a spatial systemizing attribute there could be a need to have a consistent or a varied path.  Having multiple options for comfort and challenge can be individualized with a counselor or family member.  

The facilities at Camp Southern Ground should be transformable and multi-purpose to every extent possible.  All buildings will need to serve campers during the summer months as well as a variety of visitors, including corporate employees, families, and doctors during ‘retreat season.’

A good example of flexibility is the living quarters: each of the boys and girls lodges are arranged in eight pods which can be converted from a single, large room that can accommodate up to 16 people during camp season into two smaller, double-occupancy hotel-type rooms during retreat season. The pods feature fold-away bunks and sliding wall panels to achieve this transformation. There are indoor and outdoor common areas, larger open spaces and smaller enclosed alcove areas, fire pits, landscape water features and gardens.  The feeling of rest is essential, but so is the varied, social component for activity.  

The boys and girls lodges, as well as a Respite lodge, will incorporate added sensitivity into the design to control noise and provide privacy for children with special needs by using acoustical ceilings and recessing the bunks into an acoustic alcove. Children with an inclination for spatial systemizing, or the need to organize objects, may desire a place where items have a static position, as shown in the bunk bed area. Along with providing sleeping quarters, the lodges aim to incorporate play and adventure. These designs allow for instances of motoric systemizing, or the need to physically move in a certain way, such as rocking, turning, and spinning in a safe area.  Other possibilities include a low climbing wall in the lodge’s open main community room and hanging pods to spin and swing.

Controllable features that allow users to change the light and sound could be employed to facilitate engagement in seeing cause and effect. Using technology, or more tangilble and tactile methods like chords, strings and metals, could be incorportated in the music hall where children can make and control their own sounds and investigate where and how these sounds originate.

Technology is an important aspect of the campus and can help foster these interactions. It may be possible to facilitate a virtual reality with nearly endless opportunities. One possibility is to format an environment similar to a virtual reality room, with walls that could include programmable LED screens to accommodate, test, or challenge. This room could provide ambient and soothing audiovisual features, using color and light in therapeutic and calming ways. Flexible environments like these could allow sequencing of numbers or phrases, show a collection of favorites, or allow a pattern to appear and be connected to one’s interaction.

“This is an environment where children of all abilities would find a welcome place to learn, play and grow. While there is much to learn about spectrum disorders, we are excited to see how children and adults respond to this design," Parker said. The Perkins+Will team will continue to explore the many aspects that help construct this journey.  As each individual finds their own path, they will cross others and be drawn to new experiences they would not have imagined, creating a beautiful and meaningful story each time they visit.




Reference:
[1] Baron-Cohen, Simon. (2006). The hyper-systemizing, assortative mating theory of autism.  Progress in Neuro-Psychology and Biological Psychiatry. 30, 865-872.


Authors:
Alexander Stewart, ASLA, LEED®AP
Associate
Alexander.Stewart@perkinswill.com
Alexander Stewart is a landscape architect, urban designer and sustainability mediator. His work is marked by simple, yet thought-provoking methods for drawing out the distinctive character of the landscape. Over the last decade, he has worked with the preeminent figures in the practice of Landscape Architecture and contributed to a wide range of transformational projects from intimate gardens to large-scale campuses. Zan has exhibited his work internationally and assisted in teaching at the nation’s leading design institutions. Central to his role with the Urban Design + Landscape Architecture studio is crafting thoughtful, functional strategies for sustainable environments.

Amy Sickeler, RID, LEED®AP
Principal
Amy.Sickeler@perkinswill.com
Amy is a Director of Design for the Atlanta office’s interiors department as well as the Atlanta office Healthcare Interiors Practice Leader. Her experience includes programming, space planning, development of facilities standards, interior design, construction documentation, furniture and equipment inventory, furniture procurement and selection and design theory.

Erika Morgan, LEED®AP
Erika.morgan@perkinswill.com
Erika has worked on numerous projects for the Higher Education, K-12 Education and Science + Technology market sectors. She has a high level of experience in 3D modeling, BIM and computer rendering. Erika is an architecture graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology and earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry and biology from Emory University.

Kimberly Rousseau, RID, LEED®AP
Senior Associate
Kim.Rousseau@perkinswill.com
Kim has provided full service Interior Design for a range of projects including CDC 106, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University For Health Sciences, Newell Rubbermaid, McKinsey & Company, and The Green House Child Care Center. “Each project becomes richer, by taking the opportunity to learn something new and apply insights from past projects.”




Designing for Health: A Spectrum of Opportunities at Camp For Autistic Youth

28 June, 2013


Designers thrive on solving problems. Our goal at Perkins+Will is to turn those problems into design opportunities that inspire new environments with positive, enriching experiences.

Perkins+Will is currently designing a campus for Camp Southern Ground, a new summer camp in Fayette County, Georgia which will allow children with typical and special needs to play, learn, and grow together in a healthy and educational environment. Founded by Grammy Award-winning artist Zac Brown, the camp will host many traditional camp activities in the summer, and convert into a research and development campus for autism and other neuro-behavioral conditions for the remainder of the year. The camp also plans to host retreats and seminars to benefit the local and global community. The facilities will be constructed with sustainable features such as organic farming, and rainwater, wind, and solar harvesting.  Utilized materials will include locally renewable wood, reclaimed metals, and brick and terracotta made from local Georgia clay. “The camp will be fully leveraging green technologies wherever possible, using its sustainable features to educate all who walk their paths," said Rob Parker, president and CEO of Camp Southern Ground.

Our team is challenged to envision an environment that will socially, physically and mentally create interaction and build trust between mainstream children, children with autism spectrum disorders, and those growing up in low socio-economic homes.  Perkins+Will assembled a diverse design team comprised of architects, landscape architects, interior designers, and industrial designers to foster and realize the innovation of a visionary client who believes the camp should be a place of adventure. Camp Southern Ground will be designed to evoke feelings of wonder, surprise, discovery, enjoyment and awe.  "This camp should be built on imagination,” Brown said.

Designing a camp for children with spectrum disorders can feel daunting, especially if you are looking for a finite solution.  Embracing the word ‘spectrum’ is vital, as there is no single specific activity or space that will please everyone.  Spectrum disorders consist of many variables that can emphasize systemizing, or “the drive to analyze or construct any kind of system. The major kinds of systems are:  collectible, mechanical, numerical, abstract, natural, spatial, social, and motoric,” according to author and psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen. [1]

The variables are endless, but it is our goal to provide unique outlets for many, and to design a summer camp that will provide an experience for children that can be adapted to fit their needs and abilities. This can be achieved by supporting spectrum disorders and their aspects of systemizing, such as the need to organize ones space or to repeat an activity.

Opportunities where experiences could be customized include the use of light, color, sound, pattern, movement, texture, materials, form, enclosures versus open spaces, thresholds, paths, and rhythms.  Time, user engagement, weather, and the natural environment will also impact one’s experience.  These opportunities will be highlighted throughout the campus in gradients where particular cues pick up and then gracefully overlap with others.  

The master plan of the camp begins with two intersecting ‘spines’ that always lead children to their home lodge.  Loops spin off the spines to programs and events that allow for differing experiences.  Within the site, each district loop will have its own identity and correlating sensory gardens for programs such as art, music, technology, aquatics, health, and education. This will make the site discernible and easy to navigate.  For a child who has a spatial systemizing attribute there could be a need to have a consistent or a varied path.  Having multiple options for comfort and challenge can be individualized with a counselor or family member.  

The facilities at Camp Southern Ground should be transformable and multi-purpose to every extent possible.  All buildings will need to serve campers during the summer months as well as a variety of visitors, including corporate employees, families, and doctors during ‘retreat season.’

A good example of flexibility is the living quarters: each of the boys and girls lodges are arranged in eight pods which can be converted from a single, large room that can accommodate up to 16 people during camp season into two smaller, double-occupancy hotel-type rooms during retreat season. The pods feature fold-away bunks and sliding wall panels to achieve this transformation. There are indoor and outdoor common areas, larger open spaces and smaller enclosed alcove areas, fire pits, landscape water features and gardens.  The feeling of rest is essential, but so is the varied, social component for activity.  

The boys and girls lodges, as well as a Respite lodge, will incorporate added sensitivity into the design to control noise and provide privacy for children with special needs by using acoustical ceilings and recessing the bunks into an acoustic alcove. Children with an inclination for spatial systemizing, or the need to organize objects, may desire a place where items have a static position, as shown in the bunk bed area. Along with providing sleeping quarters, the lodges aim to incorporate play and adventure. These designs allow for instances of motoric systemizing, or the need to physically move in a certain way, such as rocking, turning, and spinning in a safe area.  Other possibilities include a low climbing wall in the lodge’s open main community room and hanging pods to spin and swing.

Controllable features that allow users to change the light and sound could be employed to facilitate engagement in seeing cause and effect. Using technology, or more tangilble and tactile methods like chords, strings and metals, could be incorportated in the music hall where children can make and control their own sounds and investigate where and how these sounds originate.

Technology is an important aspect of the campus and can help foster these interactions. It may be possible to facilitate a virtual reality with nearly endless opportunities. One possibility is to format an environment similar to a virtual reality room, with walls that could include programmable LED screens to accommodate, test, or challenge. This room could provide ambient and soothing audiovisual features, using color and light in therapeutic and calming ways. Flexible environments like these could allow sequencing of numbers or phrases, show a collection of favorites, or allow a pattern to appear and be connected to one’s interaction.

“This is an environment where children of all abilities would find a welcome place to learn, play and grow. While there is much to learn about spectrum disorders, we are excited to see how children and adults respond to this design," Parker said. The Perkins+Will team will continue to explore the many aspects that help construct this journey.  As each individual finds their own path, they will cross others and be drawn to new experiences they would not have imagined, creating a beautiful and meaningful story each time they visit.




Reference:
[1] Baron-Cohen, Simon. (2006). The hyper-systemizing, assortative mating theory of autism.  Progress in Neuro-Psychology and Biological Psychiatry. 30, 865-872.


Authors:
Alexander Stewart, ASLA, LEED®AP
Associate
Alexander.Stewart@perkinswill.com
Alexander Stewart is a landscape architect, urban designer and sustainability mediator. His work is marked by simple, yet thought-provoking methods for drawing out the distinctive character of the landscape. Over the last decade, he has worked with the preeminent figures in the practice of Landscape Architecture and contributed to a wide range of transformational projects from intimate gardens to large-scale campuses. Zan has exhibited his work internationally and assisted in teaching at the nation’s leading design institutions. Central to his role with the Urban Design + Landscape Architecture studio is crafting thoughtful, functional strategies for sustainable environments.

Amy Sickeler, RID, LEED®AP
Principal
Amy.Sickeler@perkinswill.com
Amy is a Director of Design for the Atlanta office’s interiors department as well as the Atlanta office Healthcare Interiors Practice Leader. Her experience includes programming, space planning, development of facilities standards, interior design, construction documentation, furniture and equipment inventory, furniture procurement and selection and design theory.

Erika Morgan, LEED®AP
Erika.morgan@perkinswill.com
Erika has worked on numerous projects for the Higher Education, K-12 Education and Science + Technology market sectors. She has a high level of experience in 3D modeling, BIM and computer rendering. Erika is an architecture graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology and earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry and biology from Emory University.

Kimberly Rousseau, RID, LEED®AP
Senior Associate
Kim.Rousseau@perkinswill.com
Kim has provided full service Interior Design for a range of projects including CDC 106, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University For Health Sciences, Newell Rubbermaid, McKinsey & Company, and The Green House Child Care Center. “Each project becomes richer, by taking the opportunity to learn something new and apply insights from past projects.”

 


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