Yvon Lamarre Foundation

Sensory Fragments

The Commons



Yvon Lamarre Foundation


Montréal, QC



For individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their world is a maelstrom of sensory processing. Experienced through a broad spectrum of sensitivity, their perception and interpretation of stimuli is altered and makes them hyper- or hypo-responsive to their environment.

Sensory Fragments frames design research as a tool for meaningful and measurable improvement in lives challenged by these forms of otherness. It is an architectural response to the spatial needs of adults living with IDs and ASD. It redefines spatial, formal, sequential and haptic experiences through this lens.

Commissioned by Yvon Lamarre Foundation, an established foundation working with autistic adults, the goal is to help families who are faced with a scarcity of residential services for their children as they reach maturity. It promotes the social and community integration of people with an intellectual disability with or without an autism spectrum disorder and/or with or without a physical disability. It also wishes to help ensure the future happiness of these people and to help them develop their autonomy, reduce difficult situations and thus provide a positive response to families.

The Foundation wants to provide its residents with homes that are above all accessible, comfortable and reassuring. For the design team, its mandate is centered on the opportunity to focus on extensive and theoretical research that would bring understanding and depth to the subject in order to articulate a resonant architectural response.

As these communities face residential service scarcity, the design research tool Sensory Fragments addresses their housing challenges with architectural frameworks based in health, healthcare and cognitive research: To create neuroatypical space in urban environments for adults living with ID and ASD which calm hyperactivity and anxiety with therapeutic design.


Houses, The Commons, Transition Space, Exterior Space


Sequence, Threshold, Aperture, Identity

In the case of individuals with ASD, sensory inputs are processed differently which alters the perception and interpretation of space, making a person hyper or hypo-responsive to their environment. This research and design project defines a new paradigm for the design of living environments, where the senses are brought forward to build adaptive and inclusive spaces that support physical independence.

It is a form of sensory design which seeks to reach beyond the visual and rethinks space through all senses, one which activates, triggers and amplifies the inter-sensory relationships of touch, smell, sound, sight, and the wisdom of the body.

Beginning with an academic framework shaped by the study of scientific, psychological and architectural literature informed in part by work with Fondation Yvon Lamarre, a design syntax fundamentally linked to haptic experiences was created, taking the form of five distinct design drivers which could act as design strategies.

Threshold: Working to facilitate both spatial sequencing and sensory zoning, the presence of transition zones and clear spatial distinctions helps the user to recalibrate their senses as they move from one level of stimulus to the next. Mediating hard transitions such as moving from the interior to the exterior or high stimuli spaces to low stimuli ones, access must be generously covered, helping to smooth the many stimuli at play and process new environments as they unfold.

Sequence: Spatial logic helps users make spatial decisions. This understanding allows for the establishment of adequate links between rooms, based not only on spatial logic, but also on sensory compatibility. This compartmentalization provides clear spaces with strong directionality.

Aperture: Openings must be designed to mark and clarify the function of each room, as well as provide the right amount of light, views and air while establishing a suitable exterior connection, curated in ways which adapt to presence of sensory stimuli or lack thereof.

Identity: Centered around questions of how architecture be both inclusive and neutral, the identity of the space is two-fold; from the outside looking in, the overall space should respond to its broader community as an inclusive and functional hub that acknowledges and respects the identity of those who occupy it. Inside, residents are recognized and catered to through the living environment design’s identifiability and haptic qualities for comfort while providing controlled interactivity with the outside world.

Flux: As minute shifts in stimuli can vary in intensity for hyper- or hypo-responsive individuals, changing whole living environments pose immense challenges to those living with IDs and ASD. Design must then adapt to those who occupy it, with flexibility towards future changes of growing independence, such as the capability of expanding to include more or less residents.

Sensory Spectrum

Example of a sensory spectrum for residences, wherein an understanding of programmatic elements and their adequate spatial links between rooms are based on both spatial logic and sensory compatibility.

Sensory fragments, fldwrk, design, research, autism, yvon lamarre fondation

Adjacency Matrix

The adjacency matrix defines the level of compatibility of individual programs with each other. It is broken down into three types of adjacencies: desirable, neutral, or undesirable.


The applied design research of Sensory Fragments unfolds around three core chapters, that will provide a framework for the design of different typologies of residential living environments for people with ASD. The chapters are academic research, design research, and applied design speculation.

This creates the groundwork for deeply inclusive space founded on opportunities to assimilate information from a living environment, meaningfully engage with the world, and participate in the social connections that take place in it—regardless of sensory abilities.

The result is one where each aspect of a housing’s living space takes on a neuroatypical form of normative housing, extending from conventional living rooms and bedrooms to pools and withdrawal spaces. Materiality—textures such as dark felts to catch noise in common and transition areas, cork to dampen acoustic and tactile sensations, and alternating smooth or striped concrete—also helps to define sensorial interactions within.