Uniquely designed to engage neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Playscape is designed as a series of sensory-responsive moments made of custom-knitted fabrics and interactive lighting. While much of our built environment can be overstimulating to those with ASD, through extensive cross-disciplinary research, this installation embraces the beneficial aspects of hyper-awareness to environmental stimuli helping to foster a balanced state of well-being. Playscape gives individuals the agency to craft their own sensory experiences within an environment that offers opportunities to practice social and collaborative play.

Materials - CNC knitted textiles, comprised of Hytrel and high-performance polyester; Glass-fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) rods

Lighting Engineers: Engineering Plus

Engineering: Maria Redoutey, Prof. Evgueni Filipov, Prof. John Shaw

Kinesiology: Larken Marra

Architecture: Allison Booth. Melanie Brock, KelvinChen, Carl Uwe Eppinger, Haley Mayes, Oliver Popadich, Tracey Weisman, Ruxin Xie, Yingying Zeng

Collaborators from Columbus: George Van Horn, BCSC; Amber Wolf, Clifty Elementary; Michael Parsons, Clifty Elementary; Angela Allen, Schmitt Elementary; Kaity Day, Schmitt Elementary; Shawn Steen, Imprint Therapy; Whitney Hartwell, KidsCommons; and Ben Wagner, KidsCommons.

Financial Sponsor

University of Michigan - Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Material Sponsor

Quantum Materials, LLC

Fabrication Sponsor

Cut-All Waterjet Cutting Inc.

Sean Ahlquist is an associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Through collaborations with behavioral scientists, Ahlquist explores the relationships between human interaction and material responsivity, and architecture’s ability to address inclusivity for populations vulnerable to complex social and sensorial environments.

Ahlquist is a part of the Cluster in Computational Media and Interactive Systems which connects architecture with the fields of material science, computer science, and performing arts technology. His research formulates multi-modal design methodologies that position materiality as the primary agent in tailoring the spatial, structural and temporal capacities of architectural systems. Ahlquist holds a master of architecture degree from the Architectural Association in London, Emergent Design and Technologies Program, and is completing his doctoral research with the Institute for Computational Design at the University of Stuttgart.

The primary connection with the curatorial statement is reflected in the priority to "emphasize community, not architecture." An absolute necessity of an architecture suitable for individuals with autism is to give them a moment at which they have agency and autonomy over their environment. The ultimate goal is for this specific community to be given the agency to define the architecture and control experience of it––and, in doing so, allowing them better ability to encounter environments beyond these specialized moments.

In the 1960s, J. Irwin Miller hired Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli to create a new shopping center and public space to reinvigorate downtown as many left to the suburbs. In 2008, The Commons was rebuilt by Koetter Kim & Associates as an indoor public park and community space. Today you’ll find a performance venue, restaurants, a playground featuring a climbable sculpture designed by Copley Wolff Design Group, and Chaos I (1974) the kinetic sculpture by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely.