Bright futures: Architects envision new-age schools for visually impaired children.

January 07 20:18 2022
Learning places are one of those which plays a major role in developing the personality of a person.
UNI Invited participants to design a school for blind children which provides them a better future!

The dawn of new-age progressive schools was started around the 1900s by John Dewey as a movement of bringing up kids in lab-like schools where they learn by doing. The model helped break the stereotypes of traditional conservative methods of education which believe in teaching through books and present lessons. But with passing time, the curiosity of children has grown leaps and bounds. Questions raised in the classes today are far more expansive as a generation compared to previous centuries. From being students following a certain curriculum, their rigour is challenging every dimension of learning. These times push for new means to learn constantly, no matter what the subject is. 

This becomes a privilege for schools that have people who are able and can be provided with such exploratory means of teaching. But children who are differently/specially-abled and the facilities available to them are never pushed so far – nor even looked at in the same light.

School for the blind has been around for a while in various informal to retrofitted scenarios. The first formal educational institute was established in 1795. Before formally schooling blind children, only asylums were sought for these kids as the civilization did not know how to handle them. These schools had bare minimum braille scripts that only taught them manual crafts and menial work at large.

Today a lot of these blind children go to the same schools in their neighbourhoods that abled kids go to and are assisted by special faculties but still have the same environment and means. The design attention that goes into such spaces is fairly limited to the users they are catering to. 


What if we could bring equal curiosity and attention to the issue to this uncharted territory of barrier-free design?

How would a tailor made school for the blind be?

How would the open/liberal values of today imbibe into the built fabric of these educational institutions? Designing learning spaces for children with low or no sight requires a lot more attention than designing for abled kids. 

Can there be various models for implementing such education environments that multiply their potential? Can design help us identify modules/methods of upgrading existing schools for differently-abled teaching? Can we implement a new kind of pedagogy for the users in consideration?

The challenge here was to design a school for the blind that engages – promotes – teaches almost as well as a general school for the abled children.  Taking into account the parallels between these learning environments can’t be equal, but exercise looked more towards raising the bar than meeting it at equal capacity. The design must also focus on methods to mentally stimulate the kids through other sensory ways.

The jury for the competition consisted of esteemed designers, professionals, and academicians from around the world.

The Lead Jurors for the competitions were as follows: 

Kazumasa Takada, Co-founder, Architect, PAN-PROJECTS, UK

Yuriko Yagi, Co-founder, Architect, PAN-PROJECTS, UK

Siiri Vallner, Architect, Kavakava Architects, Estonia

Some of the Best of competition projects are:

Winning Project: Sensory Corridor
By: Kaiji Kobayashi & Takashi KOBAYASHI +1

Description: Sensory corridor

Jury Comment: The design is simple, with a single corridor as the main element. By designing the width and shape of the corridor, as well as the boundaries between adjacent functions, the design is clear, yet offers a wide range of learning possibilities for blind children. It would have been more wonderful if the surrounding landscape and outdoor spaces had been designed in a little more related to this interior space.

Editor’s Choice: Enabling Abode
By: Aceson Han

Description: The proposal aims to ameliorate the stigma that the visually impaired are limited by their disabilities, by creating a safe space for the students to engage in meaningful interaction with the public. The circulation is inspired by the urban planning of the Moscow Kremlin. The simple route guides students around different nodes with a loop pathway design.

Jury Comments: The architecture is beautifully put together and the presentation is clear and easy to understand. However, the city plan used as a reference is clear to the ordinary people, but I don’t think it’s the best solution for blind children.

Editor’s Choice: Visionary
By: Akshat Barve, Kritik Kapoor, Nancy Sahu & Rashi Desadla

Description: School design for visually impaired children. Here identification and division of studios into 3 zones – General, Arts and Sciences. An introduction of curves to reduce sharp edges and make the entrance prominent. There are 2 courtyards created by closing the geometry and taking the zones on upper level. Also alternating the studios to create alternating light effect in the main corridor and adding elements to achieve the final form.

By: Sudharsan

Description: The experiencing of space through the senses is executed in this project. A blind person reflects the society with their senses, every touching, hearing, smiling experience would be an invaluable chapter and memory of their life.

Editor’s Choice: Beyond Sight Preparatory School
By: Cynthia Fishman & Juhi Parikh

Description: A school for visually impaired children in grades K-8 that is located in the Krylatskoye district in Moscow, Russia. This school is built around the principles of sustainability and resiliency while focusing on connecting the inhabitants to nature by utilizing biomimicry as a design lens.

Editor’s Choice: Sensory Landmark
By: DongJin Kang +1

Description: Fear of the unknown environment leads to a lack of activity, directly linked to children’s creativity. The focus was on spending the most extended hours of the day and living without fear in the most stimulated schools. What if they could perceive the school’s environment with their own senses? What if they had their maps in their heads?

Checkout all the entries here.

Visionary is a competition hosted on is a global network of architects and designers who are solving some of the most challenging problems around the globe. UNI brings together world’s largest pool of design challenges that are curated by the finest architecture academicians and professionals globally. With over 200,000+ registered members, UNI brings academia and professional spheres of architecture together through a unique knowledge-sharing web platform. Since 2017, UNI has hosted more than 200+ architecture competitions for various idea level to realization level briefs. In past, UNI has helped 50+ organizations, universities, and government bodies to use our platform to generate architecture and design solutions through competitions. UNI aims to create a seamless information exchange within the architecture industry with this one-of-a-kind community. It foresees a future where architects and consumers are getting real-world design deployed over the internet through sophisticated software and applications from anywhere in the world.

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