Tactile Drawing: SEALAB

While working on the design of School for the blind and visually impaired children in Gandhinagar, I was confronted with a situation on how to communicate the design to blind children and teachers. For centuries, architects depended on drawings to record, imagine, communicate, and construct architecture. Drawings bridge the gap between the imaginary and real. However, this communication tool, which depends largely on the visual sense, became a limitation in this case.

During the initial meetings with students and teachers, we relied on physical architecture models. Through this medium, they experienced architecture by touch. The scale of the model was important because it needed to be within the reach of the hands. First, they quickly touch and experience the entire model (creating a mind map and gauge the limit) and later they slowly visualize each space in detail.

We realized the model too had its limitations, because interior spaces were difficult to comprehend. Therefore, we devised a 3d printing technique to generate tactile surfaces with different grains and depths, which allowed to differentiate them by touch. We overlapped these textures to the 2d plans, resulting in a tactile drawing.

On the first experience exploring the tactile plan, students and teachers could visualize their new school. It was a joyful moment.