Assessing multi-sensory design and its impact on form and materials : a proposed children's centre and knowledge centre for Durban.
Over the evolving years, sensory information has aided in the communication between living organism and environment. Significantly aiding in our perception of places, it has the ability to affect society in their involvement, interaction and learning circumstances. However environments created in today’s society are tending away from multiple layers of experience, creating spectators rather than the participating individuals and devoid of interaction and experiences vital to the learning component of the organism. Schools, curriculums and classrooms have further adopted universal approaches, where the creative and unique child is outcast in any event when known to be different to the social ‘norm’. This can then lead to the misdiagnosis of children with gifted learning abilities in other areas, to children with slight difficulties in learning and with children who genuinely suffer a mental disorder of significance. Nevertheless children; prone to learning challenges and adaption in growth, have proven to be creative beings whose multiple sense involvement aid in enriching their experiences and multiple ways of learning. “Intelligence is diverse… we think visually, in sound, in kinetics, in abstract terms and in movement; it is dynamic… where creativity comes from interaction in different disciplinary ways of seeing things; and it is distinct… where every child has a unique talent or strength.” (Robert; 2006) Multi-sensory intervention is also the most significant treatment or therapy in children with learning disorders; whose statistics in South Africa are ever increasing. Multi-sensory design, a design sensitive yet powerful in its outcomes, is therefore the conscious design required to target all or most of the senses. Ayres on her theory of Sensory Integration: “Essentially, the theory holds that disordered sensory integration accounts for some aspects of learning disorders and that enhancing sensory integration will make academic learning easier for those children whose problem lies in that domain.” (Ayres, 1972; pp.1) This dissertation aims to create an understanding of children and schooling environments where circumstances have led to further difficulties. The purpose of this research is then to take this further, to explore how multi-sensory design can be investigated and utilised, through its composition of form and materials, in order to elevate and educate children with learning difficulties within the schooling community of Durban. Three philosophical theories are identified within the research which is coherent in understanding the basis of the dissertation, such as; ‘phenomenology’, ‘gestalt theory’ and ‘existentialism’. These theories will be investigated to generate core literature review, a key component to this document and will further inform relevant precedent and case studies which will be critically analysed. The key theory is identified as ‘phenomenology’ in order to connect both the literature and architectural intervention, as understanding its pivotal role in experience and consciousness necessary to generate knowledge gain. The gathered information of this research document will seek to determine a comprehensive response and appropriate architectural intervention for the design of a Knowledge Centre for the children who live in South Africa and are ever increasing. “The history of education for learners with ‘special educational needs’ and of educational support services in South Africa… reflects massive deprivation and lack of educational provision for the majority of people.” (Du Plessis; 2001) This centre will be located in Durban.
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