Social Sensory Architecture
Sean Ahlquist is the Assistant Professor of Architecture at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. He was not in a panel at SXSW, like many professionals we have interviewed, but instead brought a piece of his work, that is also the winner of SXSW Eco’s 2016 Place by Design Competition, to show off and introduce. At this special event, Social Sensory Architectures, Ahlquist shared his work that he created for children with Autism to enhance their motor and social interaction skills.
As scene in the picture and video, this piece of work is visually pleasing and unique. Ahlquist’s research consists in discovering and developing touchable surface environments and combine it with physical interaction. This technique is designed to be therapeutic for the children and is accomplished by reinforcing them through this multi-sensory experience. The users can climb on and through the material, and depending on the amount of pressure applied to the fabric, a reaction occurs, such as fish swimming to you or more fish appearing. These reactions with the fish are positively rewarding the behavior and physical action that was presented by the user. The material is made with hybrid yarns, created by CNC knitting machines, and a bespoke software platform which built the material to be sensitive to touch and pressure.
The main purpose of this material and architecture is to build a more fun, interactive, and engaging way for children to enhance their motor and social skills through the positive reinforcement given through their interaction with the material.
Ahlquist said research and data are still underway to see the effects of this Social Sensory Architecture, and will be placed at the Thinkery in the Austin Children’s Museum where children can play with it, though Ahlquist said this is something all kids and all ages will enjoy.
“Every child with autism is unique. In response, we’re developing environments which can be tailored by each child to address their individual needs and preferences.” – Sean Ahlquist