Hazelwood School For The Multiple Sensory Impaired
The school caters for 60 students with multiple disabilities, aged from 2 to 19. Each student has a combination of two or more of the following impairments: visual impairment, hearing impairment, mobility or cognitive impairment.
The design focused on creating a safe, stimulating environment for pupils and staff. The architect set out to eliminate any institutional feel and worked to avoid conventional/standard details, creating a bespoke design that incorporates visual, sound and tactile clues.
The school is set within a landscaped green adjacent to a large public park, the site is surrounded by mature lime trees with three beach trees in the centre. The building snakes through the site, curving around the existing trees, creating a series of small garden spaces and maximising the potential for more intimate external teaching environments.
The choice of materials was of great importance. The architect developed a palette of highly textured natural materials that would be stimulating to touch and smell. Naturally weathering timber, reclaimed slate tiles and zinc were used externally.
Navigation and orientation through the building was critical. The concept of a trail rail was developed, which doubled as a storage wall. It allows the children to move around the school with a level of freedom. The wall is clad in cork, which has warmth and tactile qualities and provides signifiers or messages along the route to confirm the children’s location within the school.
The building is very much a product of an extended and detailed briefing process and has been designed to deal with very specific issues whilst ensuring an architectural quality. It’s a building that is designed not only to assist in the stimulation of the senses, but as an environment that stimulates the imagination.