Ahead of the curve

The Caudwell International Children’s Centre (CICC) represents unparalleled innovation in building design for children with autism and disabilities.

Caudwell Chilren - Our Appeal
The Brief

A space like no other

The initial design brief from Caudwell Children was to create an iconic building that supported therapy and could house ground-breaking research into autism.

C4 have designed a truly unique centre for support, therapy, education and research. Using the most current and innovative thinking on autistic care, C4 have created a free-flowing space for children and their families.

Early hand drawn sketch

The Architechural Approach

The Architectural Approach

Designing a vision

The Caudwell International Children’s Centre (CICC) aims to help autistic children achieve their full potential and lead the way in autism research and innovation.
For C4, this meant designing a building that goes beyond aesthetics to deliver a warm, tactile and welcoming space that contributes to the therapeutic experience.

Cutting corners - but in a good way.

The brief from Caudwell Children was to create an iconic building with a free flowing form and to avoid, wherever possible, the use of corners. Fewer corners creates a more flowing and open space, enhances the external and internal aesthetics, but also reduces injury risk and improves the therapeutic environment.

It was of critical importance that the building made visiting children and families feel welcome, comfortable and engaged. No area could give the impression of a traditional ‘institution’ - this was the C4 design team’s initial focus.

A specific requirement of the brief was to provide two inner courtyard spaces which would serve as a secure private assessment space to the South and a larger, accessible public/function courtyard to the North. To bring this to life, the design team drew inspiration from Caudwell Children’s existing butterfly logo which formed the basis of their concept design.

This enabled the building to be arranged into North and South ‘wings’, each with their own distinct function, with circular internal courtyard spaces to admit daylight. The elliptical nature of the butterfly also allows for a flowing internal layout, to address internal navigation considerations for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

The result was design, functionality and usability all perfectly in-sync with one another.

Design Philosophy
Design Philosophy

Therapy through design

Traditional buildings are formed by the use of straight lines. While cost efficient, this approach produces harsh right-angled corners and hidden entrances, thus creating the potential for anxiety flares for children with autistic spectrum disorders.
By switching corners for curves and square rooms for circular spaces, the building becomes part of the therapy.

Design guided by research

Research by C4 into how children with autistic spectrum disorders interact with their physical environment revealed that traditional corridor and room building design increases anxiety specifically with children. This was mainly due to a lack of visibility around corners and the potential for meeting head-on with other people within the building. Furthermore, hard corners can represent a potential injury risk for children.

Facilities which utilise curved circulation spaces often note that Autistic children respond by touching the walls and following the contours as they walk. C4 decided that adding curves to the Centre’s walkways and rooms will aid the children in their visual spatial processing, helping them move from space to space, hence minimising their levels of anxiety.

As well as aiding the children to navigate the building, the curvilinear design will remove any potential ‘institutional’ appearance, a key part of the client brief. This approach is then supplemented with easy access breakout spaces and refuge areas accessed straight from the principal walkways.

Visual Reassurance

Entering into a social setting without the ability to survey the space can cause individuals with ASD to experience anxiety. This in turn can have a negative effect on assessment, treatment and education.
By carefully considering internal layout, the design team have ensured that a supportive level of visibility into social and assessment areas is provided - using the physical environment to strengthen therapy.

Creating the right environment

Social interactions can be daunting for those with autistic spectrum disorders. They may have difficulty interpreting nonverbal communication and ‘social etiquette’ is not intuitive. The building design aims to support the children to be as relaxed as possible, putting them in the best frame of mind for conversation and education.

Diffused and dimmable lighting has been utilised in various areas to provide a calming but versatile environment that can be altered to suit individual needs. Furthermore, in the Assessment Suite areas, colour change LED fittings have be recessed to the room’s perimeter to provide indirect, variable colour washing to the walls to aid child engagement.

Solar controlled glazing has also been utilised to reduce solar glare and therefore minimise the risk of distraction.

Movement 1
Movement 2
Social Interaction and Visual Connectivity 1
Social Interaction and Visual Connectivity 2

Acoustic management

A person without autistic spectrum disorders might react to poor acoustics by adapting their behaviour and lowering their voice.
However, an individual with an ASD can be totally distracted by reverberation or even experience pain. Working with specialist acoustic consultants, the design team has paid a great deal of attention to sound privacy and acoustic sensitivity.

Sound at the centre

It’s difficult to overplay the importance of sound consideration when designing a building specifically for children with autism spectrum disorders. It’s fair to say that the whole design philosophy and strategy adopted by the C4 design team has been centred on the acoustics of the building. Autistic individuals can suffer from auditory gestalt, creating a difficulty distinguishing between background noise and the voice of a person speaking to them. For the Centre to offer maximum support and to function as intended, the internal spaces have been designed to reduce distracting acoustics.

Keen attention has been paid to utilise materials that will reduce or eliminate sound break-out between areas and to reduce sound reverberation times to ensure clarity of speech. This was vital for the Assessment Suites where occupants could be particularly sensitive to sound.

The main entrance atrium has been carefully designed with the choice of materials specified to ensure the correct acoustic levels will be achieved. This was a space of major significance as the atrium will be the first area visited by the children and their families, creating strong and lasting first impressions.



3D Fly Through

3D Fly Through

See how the building will look once completed.

Watch internal fly through video

See the build in progress.

Dr Christopher Harrison
As a local resident of 50 years and former lecturer at Keele

Architecturally this proposed development is the most exciting since Pace's design for the Keele Chapel in the 1960s and adds a significant building to the Keele estate. Furthermore its location is ideal and will complement the existing established woodland behind it.

Professor Nick Fosset
Keele University Vice Chancellor

Not only are we delighted that Caudwell Children are hoping to develop a facility at the Keele University Science & Innovation Park, we are also excited to be working in partnership to develop further understanding of particular conditions in children through research collaborations between the University and the charity.

The Architechural Approach

Meet the team

Damian Horridge LinkedIn

Damian Horridge

BSc (Hons) MRICS

Project Lead and Managing Director at C4 Consulting

Damian is the founder and Managing Director at C4 Consulting and has over 20 years’ experience in the property industry.

Damian specialises in Development Project Management and Employers Agent services acting for developers, pension funds, owner occupiers and private individuals.

Damian will be acting as the Project Lead for the development and will assume overall responsibility for the delivery of the project for Caudwell Children. Damian is responsible for managing and maintaining quality throughout the design and construction phases.

James E Pass LinkedIn

James E Pass

BA (Hons) MArch PG Dip ARB RIBA

Architect & Director at C4 Consulting Limited

James is an ARB and RIBA Chartered Architect with over 16 years' industry experience and the Lead Designer for the Caudwell International Children’s Centre (CICC).

James has experience of designing for children diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and has researched ASD and its effects on perception and interaction with the built environment. This provided valuable insights to inform the design process for the new Caudwell Children Centre.

Specialising in educational and highly complex bespoke commercial projects over a number of years, James has built an experience base of relevant projects necessary to deliver a truly unique project which will take Autism accessible architecture to a new level.

As Lead Designer, James will take responsibility for on-site Quality Control to ensure that the delivered project is in line with the design and specifications as created by C4 Consulting.

Nicholas Ryder LinkedIn

Nicholas Ryder

BSc (Hons) MRICS

Principal Designer and Senior Director at C4 Consulting Limited

Nicholas is a Senior Director at C4 Consulting and has over 20 years’ experience in the property industry.

Nicholas has extensive knowledge and skill sets in Project Management; Contract Administration and Cost Consultancy Services enabling him to provide niche Commercial Development advice for clients across various sectors including developers and funding institutions.

Nicholas, as Company Lead on Health and Safety will be acting as Principal Designer under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 advising all members of the Team on Health & Safety matters throughout the duration of the project.

Rob Hempsall LinkedIn

Rob Hempsall

BSc (Hons) MRICS

Project Manager & Director at C4 Consulting

Rob is a Chartered Building Surveyor with over 15 years’ experience of delivering construction projects. He is a member of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Rob is a Director within C4 Consulting and is responsible for providing Project Management services for the delivery of the Caudwell International Children’s Centre (CICC). He is responsible for coordinating the Design Team from inception through to completion, management of the overall programme as well as managing the client through the whole process. Rob is also responsible for the coordination of Risk Management for the project and will liaise with all parties to mitigate all risks identified throughout.

Rob’s duties also entail acting as the Employer's Agent for the scheme responsible for managing the project finances, the issue of all certification to all parties and managing the appointed contractor. He is responsible, along with the Lead Architect, to monitor quality and compliance of the contractor's work on site.