LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, one of the oldest social-services organizations in California, is on the forefront of technology and training for blind and low-vision individuals. The LightHouse needed a new headquarters that would allow them to expand their services and provide an uplifting, positive environment; through the thoughtful integration of acoustics, materials, and technology, the new LightHouse headquarters is designed to function well for blind users while being beautiful for the blind and sighted alike.
This project spans three floors of a high-rise in downtown San Francisco and encompasses a wide range of services that the LightHouse offers its clients, including on-site optometry exam rooms, a retail store showcasing adaptive technology devices, training rooms for hands-on learning of Braille and adaptive technology, a training kitchen, a large multi-purpose room for LightHouse and community events, administrative offices, audio and video recording facilities, conference rooms with state-of-the-art video-conferencing technology, and 11 dorm rooms where up to 29 clients can stay on-site for immersive training and community-building.
True to the principles of universal design, subtle design moves are utilized to make the spaces function well for everyone. Wayfinding is aided by a ring of polished concrete encircling the public areas on each floor, while open spaces are defined by metal floor transition strips to give an indication of spatial demarcation to cane users. In training rooms, bold-colored felt-wrapped acoustic panels are used because rich, saturated colors can be discerned by many with low vision. The main reception space is wrapped in wood acoustical panels to provide both visual and acoustic warmth, creating a welcoming environment for all visitors to the LightHouse.
Images courtesy of Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects