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Autism Awareness Playhouse by TDI & Kimley-Horn

When Kimley-Horn’s designers sat down to dream up their playhouse for Dallas CASA’s 2019 Parade of Playhouses, they kept coming back to a theme: inclusion and unity.

“We reviewed all the houses from past years and noticed a lot of themes,” said Kimley-Horn’s Jonathan Campbell. “But we realized we could use the theme of our house as a platform.”

Ultimately, the group settled on an inclusive theme, and the house mirrors the colorful, well-known symbol of autism awareness. Square in shape, with colorful side paneling, the house brings awareness to autism but also an understanding of inclusiveness. The design team hopes it promote understanding.

“We hope it gives all kids the opportunity to interact,” Campbell said. “We want all kids to mix and mingle in the space.”

Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses runs July 12 to 28 at NorthPark Center. With 17 houses on display and available to win by raffle, the event serves as Dallas CASA’s signature awareness event and raises funds to serve children who have suffered abuse or neglect. Dallas CASA’s trained and supervised community volunteers advocate for the best interests of children living in foster care because it’s not safe at home.

For Kimley-Horn, the house has already created greater awareness among staff designers and builders. Many people who worked on the house have friends or family members impacted by autism.

“We discovered almost everyone has been touched by autism,” Campbell said. “Whether it’s a family member with autism or a friend who works with students with autism, we all know someone affected.”

Kimley-Horn designer Alysa Gapinski’s mother teaches middle school students with autism and provided input for the design team. Madison Wavra, a landscape architecture student at Texas A&M interning at Kimley-Horn this summer, consulted a speech pathologist friend who works with students with autism.

The design team took into consideration colors and sensory elements as they designed, with the goal of creating house where all kids could feel comfortable and be active.

“We used cooler colors on the inside of the house so it would not be over-stimulating,” Wavra said. “And we were careful to consider sounds, also to limit sensory overload for sensitive children.”

When it came time for the design team to partner with builder TD Industries, the creative ideas kept coming. TD Industries suggested new and different building materials that bring textural change to the house, including colored Plexiglas, dowel rods that spin, aluminum slats, textured siding and smooth access portals.

“TD really embraced our idea and brought lots of their own ideas and materials,” Campbell said. “This house was a true collaborative team effort.”

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