I’m going to assume that everyone is going to discuss his or her experience at Anchor Center. It was a very inspirational experience for me, and I felt like it was an incredible opportunity for us to get a tour and also hear from the architect.
My first impression was that it was a beautiful environment, and that clashed with my experience of institutions created for those with physical handicaps. It was bright, exuded friendliness and seemed like a place that all children could enjoy. If every school environment would be developed with this level of care, I think there would be fewer problems with kids hating school!
The discussion about the acoustics providing for echolocation was easy to experience. Some of the changes were incredibly drastic; for example, when I “clicked” my way from the hallway into an alcove leading to some classrooms, I could immediately sense the change in my location – and I have absolutely no experience with this form of sensory perception.
I was again challenged to realize that blindness and visual impairment does not mean a complete black field of sight. The use of color, light and contrast all served as a reminder of the gradation of impairment, and some areas (particularly the hallway and the light room) were a good example of how partial blindness could still be served by light. Andrew was talking about how a limited sense could provide the opportunity for more radical use; that light room was a great example.
I was actually surprised that the building provided more subtle cues than I would have thought necessary. Minimally invasive designs, like the small grooves in the wall track (that identified an upcoming corner) or the coloring of the steps in the music room pointed to the complexity of the problem, and also points to the value of subtlety when an area is going to become ones daily environment.
It was also interesting to see places where the school subverted some of the original designs to provide a sense of continuity. The best example of this was the addition of nametags above the coat area; I got the sense that this was “against” the design, but provided a connection to their old location in a way that made people comfortable.
It was enjoyable to see how Aiden responded to the area. At first, he walked around as if it were a foreign place – I’m afraid I may have weirded him out by talking about it being a place for blind children. However, when he first saw a Scooby-Doo book, I think he stopped thinking about it being for “other people” and realized it was a kids area. All of a sudden, he felt free to explore, check things out and (especially outdoors) check things out on his own. It was a neat learning experience – for me.