University of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Bologna, Italy
Experimental project alongside didactic strategies
Private client, ongoing, 2020


According to the information published by WHO (World Health Organization) in 2021, worldwide about one in 270 people have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, as stated by ASDEU (Autism Spectrum Disorders in the European Union) because of limited inquiry, many persons with ASD are not even diagnosed until adulthood, whatsoever environment is not responding to their needs.

The project of a University for individuals with ASD has been developed in collaboration with the no-profit organization (UDSA). The research focuses on the influence of the surrounding environment on the educational process of neuro-atypical individuals in the age of twenties. Explicitly, the organization concentrates on the preparation and integrating of individuals with ASD within society, by strengthening personal talents or abilities after compulsory education.

Mark Rothko. No. 13. 1958

The project follows the range of possible behaviors within the spectrum, elaborating a strategy that respects strongly contrasting sides of the disorder. Therefore, the idea of the GRADIENT articulates the architectural space gradually based on their intensity, activity, and frequency. In fact, the presence of a variety of conditions stimulates every individual to find his/her environment of comfort, safety, and concentration.

David Hockney. The boy hidden in a Fish. 1969

The intervention is organized in three macro-sector: the gym, the central core, and the didactic area, continuously respecting gradient sequence that permits delicate transition through the building. The curved slope of the roof regulates the height of the interior space, from the higher space of the gym to the atrium, and then progressively to the classroom.

The repetition of the structure generates a rhythm that orders the facade: a lower belt, interrupted in a few points, and an upper area in which panels and windows alternate in the intervals of the structure. However, in the project, any spaces could be portrayed based on perceptive qualities. The common spaces, such as the gym, the canteen, and the entrance, represent environments with high intensity of stimuli. On the contrary small niches or the benches in the recesses, represent a decompression spot for the need of pause from the information.

Alvar Aalto. The Säynätsalo Town Hall. 1951. Photo by  Nico Saieh

In parallel, the same division is possible with outdoor places: the grade of connection with the outside world, the extension and size, the presence of cover, and the number of entrances/exits. Inner courtyard represents safe but shared space, with higher frequency, on the other hand, small gardens that accompany each classroom stand for a calmer and cognitive atmosphere of outdoor experience.

Hokusai. The great wave off Kanagawa. 1820-1831

The continuity of the curved roof allows understanding the project as a unity, especially to orientate the students.