How can architecture be used to create a welcoming environment for children with special needs?

For the design of a new facility for the Karin Dom Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping children with special needs, we have proposed a space around the concept of a dwelling to make visitors feel at home.

Karin Dom is a place where children, parents and professionals feel welcome, able to have fun, create and play, learn, build independence and make friends.

Karin Dom Vision

Our design derives mainly from the above statement, which we interpreted as creating a home for users of the building. What defines a home is the way in which the occupants feel inside it; whether or not they feel comfortable inside and whether they can feel an intimate relationship with other occupants.

The architecture takes this desire to all levels of the design, from the disposition of the building down to the arrangement of the building functions and individual building details. The result is a series of blocks that evoke the silhouette of houses clustered together, creating a village within a forest which gives Karin Dom a defining character and a sense of belonging.

Maximum Coverage
Construction is possible within the set-back areas.

Separation of Functions
Rooms are arranged based on their functional requirements.

Connect with Outdoor
By shifting the individual blocks, each room is given a window to bring in natural lighting.

Open to Natural Lighting
The roofs are raised to being in maximum sunlight.

Articulate Façade
The roof is refined to minimize the building bulk from all sides.

The design aims to create a lively and engaging environment by creating informal meeting places within the building. At the heart of the design is the central garden, with access provided from various rooms for use by visitors and occupants. This garden becomes an informal meeting place where chance encounters can occur. Internally, the individual blocks are shifted along the axis to create nooks and crannies for people to sit, rest and chat.

The building design adopts passive strategies of ventilation and lighting to bring occupants more in line with nature. By shifting the individual blocks, towards the garden, each room is given access to a window and natural lighting. Aside from these windows, skylights are also opened above the main circulation corridors. These spatially define the different spaces of the building, helping children and users in their orientation and wayfinding around the building. The raised roofline of the building is oriented towards the south to capture sunlight, at the same time creating the distinctive cluster of houses silhouette.

Different functions are grouped to form the three-storey building. Facilities which are more public and would benefit from direct access to the outdoors are placed on the ground floor. Above are facilities which require more privacy and seclusion, and at the top are the staff and training facilities. These facilities are then further separated on plan into five main blocks, which create a sense of belonging for users by making the building form appear smaller and more easily relatable, especially to children.

Varna, Bulgaria


Healthcare, Education, Public