Designing for Neuro Diversity: A Conversation between Architects Sibani Sarma and Vijay Dsouza

By Architect Sibani Sarma

In the realm of architecture, the concept of employee-centric design has gained significant traction, bringing to light the nuanced considerations necessary for creating workspaces that cater to diverse needs. Recently, while in Bangalore, I had the pleasure of meeting the visionary founder of rc Architecture, Architect Lionel Vijay Dsouza, an industry expert with extensive experience in the field. Our discussion delved into the intriguing intersection of employee-centric design and neurodiversity.

A Casual Start: Stairs or Lift?

The conversation began on a casual note, addressing the age-old dilemma of stairs versus the lift. Vijay candidly admitted to occasionally opting for the lift, especially after morning workouts, invoking a relatable chuckle from those familiar with the internal debate on fitness versus convenience.

Designing for Diversity: A Time-Tested Approach

As we transitioned into the core topic of neurodiversity, Vijay expressed his belief that such terms, although modern, resonate deeply with the inherent diversity already present in our vast and varied country. In some way, organisations such as this have already taken care of these issues in many ways to grow to this number. He emphasized the longstanding commitment to diversity in design.

Tailoring Spaces for the Spectrum: Breakout Spaces as an Example

Vijay shed light on the meticulous approach to designing breakout spaces. Despite their physical proximity on each floor, these spaces are treated with distinct flavors, allowing individuals to choose environments that align with their inclinations. “Designing for the entire spectrum,” he noted, “requires tailoring each space to their unique needs.”

Unveiling the Invisible: Contribution of the Neurodiverse 

Our conversation then turned to neurodiversity, a concept that Vijay believes holds immense potential for organizational success. Neurodivergent individuals, he explained, bring fresh perspectives, thinking outside the box and envisioning the bigger picture. “The beauty of it is that about 50% of people don’t know they are neurodivergent. It’s like an invisible disability or an ability,” Vijay shared.

Indian Designers and Local Context: A Unique Advantage

Discussing the role of Indian designers, Vijay emphasized the newfound appreciation for their ability to understand the local context. “Being an Indian, we often get compared to international firms. Now, there’s a turnaround in thinking, realizing that Indian designers understand the context much better,” he stated.

Sensory Design: Enhancing Experience and Productivity

The significance of sensory design in creating holistic experiences has become a focal point in designing spaces for the neurodivergent employees . Vijay highlighted the importance of addressing various senses—sight, sound, smell, and touch—to positively impact the overall experience of a space. “Designing for various senses, preferences, and needs contributes to a holistic experience, enhancing productivity and employee engagement,” he remarked.

The Space Lab: Fostering Creativity and Innovation

Dsouza unveiled a groundbreaking initiative—the Space Lab—a dynamic hub for engagement with people, technology, and furniture being created at his office. This innovative concept aims to facilitate discussions, workshops, and tinkering, fostering creativity and solutions. “The Space Lab is a work in progress,” Vijay explained. “It’s about engagement with people, technology, and furniture. It’s a hub for discussions, workshops, and tinkering.”

Rapid-Fire Insights: The Personal Side of the Designer

In a rapid-fire round, we learned that Vijay is both a morning person and a night owl, embracing the duality of his work schedule. His favorite design tool is Trace on his iPad, combining the traditional art of sketching with modern functionalities. As for design trends, he expressed a fascination with localization—the art of blending global and local influences.

A Pleasurable Exchange of Ideas

As our conversation drew to a close, I expressed my gratitude for the insightful exchange of ideas. Vijay reciprocated the sentiment, emphasizing his enjoyment of our discussion.

In the dynamic field of architecture, where creativity meets functionality, architects like Lionel Vijay Dsouza pave the way for inclusive and innovative design. The principles of employee-centricity and neurodiversity, woven into the fabric of their work, promise a future where spaces are not just functional but truly resonate with the diverse individuals who inhabit them.