Shenandoah Autism Center


A feasible new design for the kids at S.A.C. in Clifton Forge, VA.

This is a feasibility study for a school for kids with autism in Clifton Forge, VA. It succeeded a set of case studies on schools or institutions that can aid us in better designing for autistic education. How do we develop quite a specific program that required a certain level of sensitivity? As a studio, we surveyed the town for under-utilized properties and identified areas of opportunity. The site I selected has a steep slope. The terraced floor slabs gradually address that slope. The kids at SAC are very sensitive to their environment, and each child has his or her own designated personal space. Due to the 1:1 student-to-teacher ratio, the challenge was how to bring light to necessarily enclosed spaces while also providing ease of access, a wayfinding tool, and transparency while limiting distractions. The fins act as ‘cubbies’ for the kids, and also as a way-finding tool. The translucent material allows sunlight from the clerestory windows and from the overhead skylight, revealing structural elements to gradate into the circulation spine