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HDG Receives AIA Pittsburgh’s Social Equity in Design Award for Design of Presley’s Place at Pittsburgh International Airport

September 17, 2020

AIA Pittsburgh announced HDG’s design for Presley’s Place at Pittsburgh International Airport as the winner of the Social Equity in Design Award in the Small Project Category at this year’s Design Pittsburgh 2020 virtual ceremony. The Design Awards is an annual juried design competition that recognizes and honors architects and designers, and promotes excellence, innovation, and achievement in the craft of architecture.  Recent architecture projects are submitted by AIA members and firms whose principals are members of AIA Pittsburgh, as well as AIA members from across the country whose projects were located in the 11-county area to be considered for a variety of award categories.

“Presley’s Place is a special place, one that reminds us that the spaces we inhabit help shape the way we see the world and designing for everyone makes our world bigger.” – Comment from the Jury

The purpose of the Social Equity in Design Award is to challenge architects to address issues of diversity and social responsibility based on a community-driven approach. Presley’s Place does this by making travel more accessible for persons and families with autism or other neurological disorders. Those with disabilities may not have considered air travel in the past, and having the sensory room as a resource makes that a possibility. The space is open to all travelers who are in need of it, or anyone who may be visiting the airport for any reason. The sensory room provides a space to find calm and make it possible for more persons to travel by air, arriving at their destinations quicker and safer than by other travel means. The autism community is greatly under-served in public areas, particularly in the area of dignity and privacy in restrooms. The family restroom with both an adjustable adult changing table and sink offers the opportunity for travelers to find that privacy where it generally does not exist in other public facilities in Western Pennsylvania.

Congratulations to all of the winners from Design Pittsburgh 2020! See the winning projects here:

HDG’s Design Team for Presley’s Place

More about Presley’s Place:

Presley’s Place is a 1,500-square-foot sensory-friendly suite that contains a family room, three individual rooms, a quiet room and an airplane experience room, with real airline seats, overhead bins, and working lights. The project also included a companion care/family restroom located nearby with a sink and an adult changing table that are both height-adjustable. Careful design work was necessary in order for the space to calm all of the senses, while also considering the differing needs of both children and adults. These design considerations were based on a strong understanding of how the autistic brain functions, and included:

  • A variety of tactile, touchable surfaces, including a custom wainscot
  • Fully adjustable overhead LED lighting softened using acrylic “cloud covers”
  • Acoustic solutions addressing partitions, sliding doors, and ceilings, and the use of absorptive wall panels
  • Use of sustainable, odor-free materials
  • Incorporation of smaller rooms for silence or privacy
  • Custom-built “sensory support nooks” that feature bubble tubes and LED fiber-optic tunnels, offering calming sounds and visual stimulation
  • Soft surfaces throughout the space

Presley’s Place is located in Terminal A of Pittsburgh International’s airside terminal, near Gate A9.


View the Presley’s Place presentation showing the detail that went into designing a space like Presley’s Place:


Download the Full Presley’s Place Project Presentation Here


The Project Team for Presley’s Place included:

Client: Allegheny County Airport Authority
Architecture Firm: Hayes Design Group Architects
Contractor: Allegheny County Airport Authority
Engineer: A&F Engineering
Numerous Other Consultants & Partners Including:

  • Allegheny County Airport Authority Charitable Foundation
  • American Airlines
  • Autism Connection of Pennsylvania
  • Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
  • Corbett Interiors
  • Dan Taylor Interiors
  • Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust
  • FISA Foundation
  • Hillman Family Foundations
  • IAM Local Lodge 1976
  • Magee Plastics
  • MAX-Ability
  • Supertint
  • XYZ Custom

For more about this project, visit:

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