Austin-based architecture and interior design firm Runa Workshop has recently completed One of the Kids, a nature-inspired campus for children who have autism. In preparing for the project, the architects first needed to educate themselves on how to best suit the needs of the children. Then, the team had to decide how to create a welcoming, comfortable campus within a tight budget of just $800,000 for an approximately 8,000-square-foot space. Cost-effective materials, an emphasis on natural lighting and the incorporation of biophilic and green elements tie the campus together.

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unfinished wood wall with sign that reads, "One of the Kids"

Created as a local family’s passion project located just north of Austin, One of the Kids provides a safe haven for children with autism to learn and play. The clients sought a campus that would encourage the children to explore their surroundings without overstimulating them. As a result, the designers used biophilic design to create a calming yet inspiring atmosphere.

Related: HIVE Project proposes biophilic, self-sufficient homes of the future

round seats, turf, inbuilt wood bookshelves and a small rock-climbing wall

“Nature has been proven to promote healing, so we incorporated biophilic design to help us achieve this connection,” the designers at Runa Workshop explained. “We maximized the amount of natural light in each therapy room and incorporated a view of nature or green space to tie back into the concept. The design allowed for a large space where children can interact with water and ‘grass’ in a well-lit space while burning off excess energy so they can better focus in their therapy sessions.”

green turf and rock-shaped seats in a classroom

Cost-effective oriented strand board, large windows and green paint are used throughout to strengthen a connection to nature, from the green “mountains” painted on the walls to the turf in the play area. In addition to the creation of active social spaces, such as the large indoor/outdoor play area and an indoor pool, the designers also carved out “chill rooms” with low lighting and dark-colored walls to provide children a comfortable place to go calm down when they feel overwhelmed.

+ Runa Workshop

Images via Runa Workshop