Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf | Wilkins Hall

Faribault, MN

Kodet Architectural Group worked with Minnesota State Academies, in Faribault, MN, to design Wilkins Hall, a new student dormitory building for the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. The dormitory houses 60 students, ages 6-18, who are deaf or hearing impaired and many students also have low vision, which required developing thoughtful design strategies for the interior and exterior. Through collaboration and engagement the Kodet team designed a welcoming space for students to live, learn, and interact.

The building has a variety of room sizes and types based on the unique needs and circumstances of the users, and all spaces are fully accessible. The facility also includes common spaces such as an activity room with food-service, and specialty rooms including education + life skills classrooms. These specialty spaces allow students a collaborative and flexible space for students to learn how to live independently through cooking, laundry, and financial management classes. The exterior utilized locally sourced stone and was designed to fit the context + character of the surrounding campus.

Our firm has a long history which emphasizes developing thoughtful design solutions that combine aesthetics and accessibility to accommodate unique programmatic needs. Designing spaces for low-hearing and low-vision users were built upon the ADA’s guidelines and includes acoustic considerations: ambient, mechanical, and material noise, but also lighting.  By designing the spaces to include diffused natural light, minimizing corners and niches, using simple texture and color variations we were able to improve visibility between spaces. These details were combined with legibility of the floor plan to create a highly accessible dormitory to meet their programmatic needs.

The design team collaborated early to clearly identify strategies to guide team members through design and construction to achieve Minnesota B3 standards. Specific attention was focused on maintaining high indoor environmental quality through creative and intentional control of daylighting, vibrations, thermal comfort, and acoustics for a user demographic sensitive to light, sound, and vibrations.

Our team worked closely with the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf to assure their project came to life while creating a warm atmosphere for students to live, learn, and interact. By focusing on the details to support the welcoming aesthetic we discovered innovative design solutions to fit their program and meet their needs now and into the future.