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Project Site: United States / 2022

Competition: Home for the Blind Winner, First Prize, Student Award

Team: Christina Zhang + Joshua Tan + Claire Hicks

THE GUIDING WALL is designed for the comfort and autonomy of its blind occupant. The project prioritizes way-finding and security through the use of different lighting conditions, material textures, ceiling heights, spatial devices, and programmatic

The design conceptually connects the different living spaces along a guiding wall that creates a corridor punctuated by "pause zones." The "pause zones" not only suggest  transitions between rooms, but also provide a quiet and dark contrast that intensifies the distinct environments across the home.


Each room, for living, dining, cleaning, and resting has unique ceiling shapes and lighting conditions. Upon entry, one will sense an atmosphere that does not require vision, but is instead conveyed through sound, temperature, and a connection with the outside. The guiding wall contains all the spaces needed for domestic living (storage, cooking, cleaning, relieving of waste) and coordinates with spaces desired for domestic living (gathering, resting, working, listening). The alignment of these two spheres along the wall provides easy navigability within the house.

front porch: brightly colored inset datum line runs through the length of the house

Pause Zone alluding to the next space

All household necessities are aligned along one wall for convenience and navigability.

Different ceiling conditions in each room creating distinct atmospheres for sensations across rooms.

"Pause Zone" Entry

furniture marked by distinctly colored outlines for visual contrast

pause zone: 
darker and quieter zone contrasts with the next day-lit space

floor materials: 
the concrete material in the corridor announces footsteps for security


spatial organization: 
the tactile-bar connects all the domestic functions along the wall

kitchen division: 
the 4 task areas highlighted by different colors, textures and lighting


dining and other main spaces are East-facing with tall windows provide natural lighting

the bathroom (space of leisure) is split from the water closet (space that is functional)


the bathroom (space of leisure) is split from the water closet (space that is functional)


a final pause zone provides a transition from indoor to outdoor.

outdoor space: 
this space allows for gardening, gathering, and enjoying nature

The first pause zone offers an immediate buffer from the public street outside. In the quietness of home, one can sit, take off shoes and relax.

Entering the living room, one can hear the tall, spacious ceiling and feel the warmth of the sunlight on one’s eye lids. When it’s raining, the pitter-pattering of rain on the glass also connects one to the beautiful exterior.

The cooking and dining space follows the second pause zone. The ceiling shape creates a lively, bustling sound echoing from the busy activities in the kitchen. The cooking area is well-lit by task-lighting, while the dining area embraces the natural light. One can enjoy a meal here surrounded by sensations from the outside environment.

The cleaning space is designed to be a relaxing experience, where one can sit, clean, organize laundry, and enjoy the interior of  warm wood and hot steam.

With a sloped ceiling, the final room creates a dimly-lit cozy environment for resting. The narrow windows beside the bed become the point of contact with the outside environment as one wakes up. Is it a damp, rainy day or a warm sunny day? Are the birds chirping outside? As one wakes up and goes to sleep, the bedroom provides a gentle reminder of the environment outside.

JURY COMMENTARY (link to announcement)

in the bathroom. Considerations would be needed for flexibility and diversity in the way an individual’s daily activities are sequences, minimizing the use of moveable furniture yet allowing customization, and for the possible integration of support technology into the environment. This scheme is a well-balanced, comprehensive design for a resident that is blind or with low vision, while being a delightful home for those with sight. It succeeds in providing a simple organizational structure with a logical flow that is built upon good common sense and a mature level of good “blind” common sense. It demonstrates a convincing development of multi-sensory place-making in each room with a great strategy of multi-sensory transitions between them.” 

The Guiding Wall was evaluated as the strongest project received for this competition. The project presents a considered and thoughtful approach to designing a space that provides security and a way-finding approach as well as an environment enhanced by sound, temperature, and contrast. The jury writes, “The project offers a nuanced design approach that does not solely rely on the guiding wall for differentiation of the spaces but caters to multiple senses at once in order to signal the transition of one space to the other and uniquely characterize each space. The proposal aptly addresses space planning and circulation with respect to a logical sequence of daily activities and brings attention to bright and high-contrast color-coding, materiality, lighting conditions and wet vs dry areas

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