Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds and raises service guide dogs and provides on-site training to 350 blind and visually impaired people each year. After 68 years of operation at their current site in San Rafael, California, they needed to update their eleven-acre campus and modernize their facilities to better serve their clients and staff. Working in collaboration with the Board of Trustees and staff, Studio Bondy Architecture developed a campus master plan with the New Student Residence as the first project.
The new Student Residence is designed to offer a safe and secure environment for students to socialize, learn and relax, with individual guest suites providing a refuge from the intense and demanding training program. The individual guest suites have all of the comforts of home: a double bed, a large private bathroom, a small sitting area with recliner, a desk area with computer connections, and a small refrigerator and coffee pot. Each suite opens to its own patio with table and chairs and a direct connection to the dog relieving area.
Given the intensity of the training program, it was important to provide students recreational opportunities as well. There is a workout room, private student patio with a hot tub, and student lounge with a large screen television, bean bag chairs and vending machines.
Not only did the project challenge the design team to consider how the building would be experienced by the visually impaired, we also had to communicate our ideas in a new way. Working with GH Accessibility in Indiana, the design drawings were printed with Braille text and raised lines so that all members of the organization’s Board could review and comment on the design.