Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf – New Administration Suite

  • area / size 9,340 sqft
  • Completed 2022
  • DRAW Collective partnered with general contractor A. Martini & Company to create the New Administration Suite for Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    DRAW Collective was engaged by the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD) to convert what was once a dormitory floor on campus into a new home for their administrative offices. Their offices had been located in an existing off-campus house, providing the School with the unique opportunity to redefine their office culture. The new space had to continue the rich tradition of excellence across the WPSD campus and create an inclusive environment that improves the experience of deaf users.

    DRAW worked closely with WPSD to develop and design a space that would allow deaf and hard of hearing users to thrive. Corridors were made wider with a muted palette, increased glazing and even lighting distribution to allow Deaf users to expand their sensory outreach and be able to comfortably communicate through sign language with their peers.

    Because devices like cochlear implants can be adversely impacted by excessive reverberation, sound deadening materials were integrated into the materials palette and placed strategically throughout the space. Easily movable and reconfigurable furniture was selected so that occupants could effortlessly rearrange the space to allow clear visual connections.

    The move from individual offices in a house-type setting into a new purpose-designed space presented WPSD with an opportunity to redefine the culture of its administrative personnel. DRAW led a series of discussions with WPSD staff to understand their current culture and the impact of space on an organization’s culture and interactions. Responding to a desire for a more collaborative culture, DRAW developed plans for a space with more shared resources, open offices, and common areas.

    The centerpiece was a collaborative working space with a new skylight to provide soft natural light and flexible furnishings to allow for multiple interactions and activities.

    By working to develop a space that supports deaf users while also embracing a new office culture, DRAW has designed a space that meets the needs of WPSD and establishes a sense of place for their staff. Since the project’s completions, many of the spaces have become new favorite gathering spaces on campus and the office culture has begun to shift and embrace a more collaborative working style.

    Design: DRAW Collective
    Contractor: A. Martini & Company
    Photography: courtesy of DRAW Collective