Operated by the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission, Bright Beginnings Learning Center provides educational and therapeutic services for students, ages 3-12, with autism or severe multiple disabilities.
A critical goal for the design of this facility was to promote a safe and healthy environment for the special needs students. With that in mind, careful consideration was given to interior surfaces; most are often rounded to reduce potential for injury. Natural light is provided throughout the building and operable windows allow for fresh outside air into the classrooms. Careful placement of clerestory windows were used to offer natural light within some of the interior spaces without direct glare to students who are sensitive to direct sunlight. A muted color palette was selected for interiors for its calming effect upon individuals with autism.
The Center features 16 classrooms arranged in four wings at each end of the building. The common areas such as the multi-purpose room, occupational therapy/ physical therapy, and administrative offices are placed in the center of the building, which reduces student movement and essentially breaks the center into smaller learning environments. Each end of the center is supported by a glass enclosed vestibule with canopies that support student movement from buses to their respective classrooms. Corridors were designed wide enough to promote recreational activities for students who are bound within wheelchairs.
The building is a two-story design that feels more like one story. The Commission Board offices, located on the second floor, incorporate large bow windows at the front and rear of the building which filter natural light to the entire second floor. The exterior of the building captures the essence of the campus by utilizing similar materials of brick, stucco and metal, reinforcing a more residential appeal, rather than the traditional institutional appearance.
The project was designed within a tight site that was constricted by wetlands and setbacks. Large retaining walls were incorporated at the rear of the building which separates the school from the environmentally sensitive areas while also providing service access to the school.