No. 224 . 19 January 2005 
ArchitectureWeek
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Psychologically Accessible

by Brian Libby

Any visit to a hospital or clinic can seem frightening, all the more so for children afflicted with autism. The slightest distraction, even something as seemingly benign as a water fountain or a beam of sunlight, can trigger a "meltdown," in which autistic patients are overcome with anxiety.

So the Minneapolis-based architecture firm Hammel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) applied a heightened sensitivity to the user experience when they designed the Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (M.I.N.D.) Institute at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

"Imagine an autistic child in a young family," says architect Bill Blanski of HGA, the project's lead designer. "It's a very stressful experience, and the divorce rate among these families is huge. They're at their wits end when they've come to the M.I.N.D. Institute. The last thing they want is anything in this facility to stimulate another meltdown. So a warm, inviting, calm atmosphere was very important."   >>>

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