Architecture Through the Senses: Navigating a World Without Noise

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Virginia Tech


For this thesis, I engage in a comprehensive study of Deaf culture by learning American Sign Language (ASL) and immersing myself within the Deaf community. My objective is to gain insights into their unique modes of interaction, daily lives, and spatial preferences. The research is motivated by the aspiration to apply this profound understanding to the design of a deaf-friendly academic building on Gallaudet University's campus. It is also motivated by the multi-sensory experience of architecture and it's impact on the users experiencing the space.

Situated prominently in front of the historic Union Market, which serves as a gathering point for people from all corners of Washington, D.C., the envisioned building aims to bridge the gap between Gallaudet University's enclosed campus and the bustling city. Through an innovative design approach, it seeks to impart a new identity to the campus, fostering inclusivity and connectivity.

The design process involves a meticulous analysis of the campus site across three distinct scales: city/campus, building, and user. Each scale informs different design moves of the proposed academic building through the exploration of the relationship between: the user and the building, the building and the campus, and the campus and the city. This approach ensures a holistic integration of new information, resulting in a structure that not only embraces DeafSpace principles but also addresses the broader context of the urban environment.

Beyond architectural aesthetics, the proposed structure will play a pivotal role in revitalizing the neglected part of the campus. By integrating Hansel Bauman's DeafSpace principles, it will serve as an example of how architecture can be enabling rather than disabling through discovering what accessibility means to the Deaf community, creating a vibrant hub that harmonizes with the existing environment and brings new life into the overlooked area.

This research not only contributes to a deeper understanding of Deaf culture but also showcases the potential of architectural design to facilitate meaningful connections, foster inclusivity, and rejuvenate neglected spaces within educational institutions.



Deaf gain, multi-sensory