Sensory rooms and Faber Birren

Aggiornato il: 5 lug 2019

Gatwick is the first airport in the UK that provides a room where people with special needs, autism, dementia, cognitive impairment or others, can relax before travelling abroad.

It provides a space for interaction where senses are stimulated by an interactive zone, panels that people can touch, different textures and games to enhance the senses.

As Gatwick website reports there are many activities to experience in the space:

"Catherine Wheel Panel - colour and sound displays including firework effects (1.)

Abstract Tactile Panels – raised and recessed fluid shapes in contrasting textures (2.)

Colour Match Panel – classical music, mood lighting, and game to improve memory, colour recognition and motor skills (3.)

Sound to Light Showtime – sounds converted into a dazzling light show of colour

Waterless Rainbow Tube – colour wheel with both calming and stimulating effects (4.)

Interactive Giant Causeway – step on each segment to activate colourful lights

Activity Board - activities encouraging motor movement, coordination and sensory skills

Infinity and Beyond Panel – visual and auditory effects using range of shapes, sounds, patterns and speeds"

An example of Fireworks Sensory Room Panel is Extravaganza™ by Rompa®:

2. An example of Abstract Tactile Panel

3. Example of Colour Match Panel

4. LED Waterless Rainbow Tube

multiple light effects and 3 sound responsive functions. Some effects are calming whilst others are stimulating.

5. Infinity and Beyond Panel

Confidence in the healing proprieties of light and colours extends to many ancient cultures, from Egypt, Ireland, China and America.

The meaning of colour is perhaps something subjective, however, coloured light used in a psychological healing aspect had more linkages points.

Faber Birren in his book "Color psychology and color therapy" suggests that the first population that started to use light as a therapy is Persian.

Greeks brought the study of beneficial light in a more practical way.

An important time came when Hippocrates,the ancient greek physician well known as the father of medicine, started to approach light therapy in a practical way leaving the mysticism that medical path was divided by mysticism.

Faber Birren wrote: " At this point in history the story of colour in medicine leads into two divergent paths,the mystics and the clinicians." [2]

It is interesting referring to how nowadays the differentiation between orthodox medicine and alternative medicine is still defined.

Birren refers also to Pytagora ( approximately 580- 570 B.C.- 495 B.C.) who used music, poetry, and colour to cure diseases. It is very intriguing that Pytagora started to think about now so called "Sensory rooms" where different stimuli thrill our system.

The Renaissance is a fundamental part of time of a new and important era that put the base for the modern society.

In Europe, alchemy, was the most important practise of the sciences.

One of the most influential alchemist was Paracelsus,(1493- 1541) Swiss physician, and astrologer as well.

He focused on the harmony of natural and supernatural forces

"Paracelsus relied upon invocations, the vibration of music and color, divine elixirs, talismans and charms, herbs and the regulation of diet and bleeding and purging. " [4]


My aim is to work creating Multi-sensory environments where wellbeing will be improved and anxiety lowered down by stimulating sensory channels. I wish to further study historical examples of sensory therapies and continue integrating these theories with my practice.


[1] Birren, F. (2013). Color Psychology and Color Therapy. Martino Publishing, p.6.

[2] (Birren, F. (2013). Color Psychology and Color Therapy. Martino Publishing, p.20.)

[4] (Birren, F. (2013). Color Psychology and Color Therapy. Martino Publishing, p.25.)

External sources:

Special Needs sensory room ideas

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