Award-Winning Sensory Room at Pittsburgh International Airport

Allegheny County Airport Authority – Presley’s Place

HDG Architects provided architectural services to the Allegheny County Airport Authority, as part of an on-call architectural services contract, to design Presley’s Place, a world-class sensory-friendly space in Concourse A of the airport’s Airside Terminal. Presley’s Place is the recipient of the 2019 AIA Pittsburgh People’s Choice Award. This first-of-its-kind, 1,500 sq. ft. space serves as a calming respite for travelers of all ages with sensory processing issues and their families to decompress while traveling.

The initial suggestion by an airport employee whose son has autism inspired a team effort that was led by an interdepartmental Airport Authority team. HDG worked with the Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA) and the Autism Connection of Pennsylvania to gather input from advocacy groups, individuals and caregivers of those with neurodevelopmental challenges, which was then integrated into HDG’s design of the project. The Airport Authority’s in-house build team of more than three dozen talented tradespeople brought the design to life, constructing the room with great care and precision, right down to the smallest, most important detail.

Some of the unique features of the project include:

  • Tactile, touchable surfaces
  • Cloud panels to soften the adjustable, overhead lighting
  • Soundproofing in the doors, walls, and ceilings
  • Sustainable, odor-free materials
  • Smaller rooms for silence or privacy
  • Calming sounds and visual stimulation
  • Numerous custom-built features such as the benches and “tunnels”, all with soft or curved surfaces
  • Sensory-friendly bathroom with both a height-adjustable sink and adult changing table
  • The first-of-its kind, real-life airplane exhibit where you can experience what it’s like to board an actual airplane, created with help from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, American Airlines, Magee Plastics, and XYZ Custom


All of the collaboration necessary for this project began in early 2018, and the entire project team worked together to successfully meet the fast-tracked construction schedule for completion in July 2019.



Award-Winning Project: HDG’s design of Presley’s Place received AIA Pittsburgh’s 2020 Social Equity in Design Award, AIA Pittsburgh’s 2019 People’s Choice Award, and HDG and the Airport Authority of Allegheny County also received 2019 Community Partner Awards from the Autism Connection of Pennsylvania for excellence in collaboration with the autism community on the project.