Academy of Architecture for Health Journal 2016

Sean Ahlquist's journal article titled "Textile Environments and Tactile Interfaces: Responsive Multisensory Architectures for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder" is one of three articles selected for the print publication of the Academy Journal 2016 of the Academy of Architecture for Health. 


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are challenged by issues related to communication, social interaction, and behavioral regulation. In many cases, the inability to properly filter and process sensory information drives these diminished capabilities, causing them to become overwhelmed by their environment and preventing the ability to engage and learn.  This paper describes the development of two prototypes, StretchCOLOR and StretchPLAY,  part of the Social Sensory Surfaces research project, which focuses on the design of multisensory environments for children with ASD. The research aims to develop environments that help provide a behaviorally-regulated experience for children with ASD by catering to their specific strengths and interests. Textiles are utilized as both structure and elastic tactile interface, providing a visually and physically engaging environment. The structure is defined as a textile hybrid system—a tent-like structural system integrating tensile surfaces with flexible composite rods. The textile is tailored for both structural capacity and responsiveness to touch by using advanced CNC knitting technology. When tensioned, the textile is activated as a tangible interface where sensing of touch and pressure triggers visual and auditory feedback while providing a positive physical responsiveness in the elasticity and resistance of the textile. This project involves intense collaboration in academia and practice between the fields of architecture, computer science, information science, performing arts and civil engineering, along with practitioners in the field of ASD-based therapies. This paper will describe research in material fabrication and interaction design as well as provide initial results from the use of the prototypes within the setting of local therapy centers working with children who have ASD.

Ahlquist, S.: 2016, Textile Environments and Tactile Interfaces: Responsive Multi-Sensory Architectures for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, AIA Academy of Architecture for Health Journal, Vol 18. (online)

PublicationSean Ahlquist