A National Precedent in Design for Adults with Autism
As the program hub for Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS), the Community Center more than doubles the capacity for the first-of-its-kind support program which offers employment, job training, psychological assessment, and other services to make independent and fulfilling lives possible for adults with autism. Located on the northwest edge of Rutgers’ Douglass Campus, the new building flourishes at the intersection of campus and community. Taking cues from the scale, form, and materiality of nearby neighborhood buildings, the Community Center evokes a residential structure, and is sited and designed as a protective edge around a central courtyard. Open to the Rutgers and local community, not just adults with autism, the building supports RCAAS’ goal to immerse program participants in an inclusive environment, developing their comfort level in the neurotypical world to prepare and empower them to succeed in the community at large.
A series of vocational, social, and life skills workrooms organized around a communal “living room” space, optimally positioned to provide views of the neighborhood, campus, and courtyard. The building’s lofted roof translates to the interior as a floating sculptural wood element while the exposed steel structure breaks down the building’s scale. Principles of biophilic design are applied throughout, including clerestory windows offering views and ample natural daylight and warm natural materials and finishes. Consideration was paid to sensory impacts through use of noise-reducing materials and creation of alcoves with soft edges for privacy and respite. The building also houses individual and group training rooms, a professional kitchen, recreational and common spaces, offices, and meeting rooms. All spaces are designed with the flexibility to support a variety of activities, and to adapt to the changing needs of this groundbreaking program over time.