Last week Noviun Architects visited Caudwell International Children Centre (CICC) in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Caudwell Children is a national charity dedicated to improving the lives of disabled children in the UK. Their mission is to provide “practical and emotional support through compassionate and efficient services” with a vision to have “a world where all disabled children and their families have choice, opportunity, dignity and understanding”. The centre specialises in the assessment and development plans for autistic children, with the whole process being carried out under the one roof, dealing with children from across the UK and abroad.
CICC was designed with children at the heart of the design and in close consultation with them, therefore achieving highly bespoke and tailored facility for all its users, be it visitors, parents, professionals, or children. The curved form of the building came from the consultation with the children at concept stage, which highlighted children’s desire to have curves throughout, presenting a non-aggressive form with constantly changing view points along the circulation routes, which eliminated the risk of getting lost by always arriving back at the point you start.
The centre includes many items that are bespoke and designed by children and how they wanted to feel, for example, superhero stone. Its texture and sheer size was astonishing to be able to move and made us all feel like superheroes too.
Prior to arriving at the building, any visitor has a chance to explore it virtually, therefore reducing the anxiety of visiting new facility and the unknown.
The building is designed around two central courtyards, which act as a great reference point for anyone but there are also plenty of break out spaces immediately adjacent to the central circulation to relieve any negative emotions and create peaceful environment.
The design challenged the standard requirements within special schools, such as ironmongery selection, kick plates, wall protectors etc. which helps de-institutionalise the centre and provides a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere throughout.
Alongside the tour of the CICC, we discussed the influences and potential future adaptions to the designs of inclusive environments with the Department of Education as well as Caudwell Children. Being able to visit such a user-tailored facility certainly inspires designers to look at things differently and perhaps re-visit some of the standard school design ideas to strive for better. It is worth noting that inclusive designs are not limited to special needs but should be implemented for all buildings, especially schools.
We would like to thank Caudwell Children for welcoming us so warmly and giving us the chance to visit the centre in person, especially as every detail in the building is so well thought through.
For more information about the centre, visit their website at: https://www.caudwellchildren.com/cicc/#explore