The recently completed Texas School for the Deaf Administration and Welcome Center and Early Learning Center, at the state’s oldest continuously operating public school, was designed to foster a sense of belonging for the deaf community. Designed with DeafSpace principles, a set of concepts that recognize the unique human experience of deafness and encourage community building, personal safety, communication, and occupant well-being, specifically for the deaf community, the structure serves as a new campus gateway building.
Designed by McKinney York Architects, the 25,000 sf structure is the anchor for the first phase of the school’s ambitious new campus master plan. It balances different functional needs of public and educational spaces within one building by differing the building massing to clearly denote a formal entry to the administrative areas, separating them from the semi-private entry to classrooms. The new building gathers various departments previously located in different locations around the campus into a single administrative center. It also provides formal and informal meeting spaces, public spaces, and a ten-classroom childhood educational center.
The entry is light and airy, with a double-height, glazed lobby accented with wood finishes providing a warm and welcoming focus for new visitors. Strategically placed openings between classroom and workspaces offer unobstructed visual communication between students and teachers. Round and curved spaces forming generous communal areas are featured throughout the design, enhancing the efficiency of sign language communication, and actively encouraging formal and informal gathering.
The building is the first major construction project at the school to use DeafSpace principles, which were incorporated into the design from the programming phase onward. First developed in 2005-2010 by a team from Gallaudet University, DeafSpace principles use a series of design concepts including Sensory Reach, Space and Proximity, Mobility and Flexibility, Light and Color, and Acoustics. Features including lighting, corridor widths, and door operations are considered when designing spaces that recognize the unique human experience of being deaf rather than treating deafness as a disability to be accommodated.
“The design effort by McKinney York Architects to take materials of previous generations on campus, to integrate them to the greatest extent possible without replicating what had been done in the past 150 years, through to new construction materials, paint, textures tones, is period-correct now, but also ties back to the timelessness and history of the school,” said Justin Wedel, CFO, the Texas School for the Deaf.
Owner and/or developer: Texas School for the Deaf
Design architect: McKinney York Architects
Architect of record: McKinney York Architects
MEP engineer: TG&W Engineers, Inc.
Structural engineer: Structures
General contractor/construction manager: Chasco Constructors Civil Engineer: Garza EMC
Landscape Architect: Studio Balcones
IT/ AV/ Security/Acoustics: Datacom Design Group
Cost Estimating: AGCM, Inc.