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U of M architecture graduate’s thesis earns statewide honor

The entrance to Memphis ABLE. (Antonio Tirado)

Antonio Tirado’s thesis at the University of Memphis’ Department of Architecture focused on creating Memphis ABLE, a learning center that would provide creative and appropriate environments for children with autism.

Tirado earned his Master of Architecture degree in 2018. And now his thesis, “Empathic Design: Using Kinesthetic Architecture to Empower Children with Autism,” has been given the 2019 Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award by the Tennessee Council of Graduate Schools, which honors the best thesis submitted at Tennessee-based universities last year. The thesis was unanimously selected by the Master’s Thesis Award Committee as being “super impactful and highly meritorious,” said Dr. Robin Poston, dean of the U of M Graduate School.

One of the rooms inside Memphis ABLE. (Antonio Tirado)

“I am so honored to have been selected to receive this award,” Tirado said. “Many thanks to the mentorship and support I encountered with during my studies at the U of M. I am so excited to not only represent the U of M, but also to represent Memphis as a community that supports diversity, equity and innovation.”

In his thesis abstract, Tirado explained the creative process behind his research and project.

“While designing, architects tend to focus more on physical disabilities than on mental disabilities, often creating environments unsuitable for people with varying mental abilities. One marginalized group that has varying physical and mental abilities is children with autism. In order to create a better environment for these users, architecture requires empathetic designers,” he wrote.

“This thesis focuses on creating an autism center, Memphis ABLE, to provide a place that offers environments for learning, discovering, and communicating by employing strategies aimed at improving children’s social development, helping them to reconnect with their kinesthetic awareness and with their environment through empathic design.”

Tirado, now with Self+Tucker Architects, a full-service design firm in Memphis, received several additional honors during his time at the U of M, including the First Generation Fellowship, the AIA Memphis Scholarship, and the Architectural Research Centers Consortium Jonathan King Medal for Architectural Research. He became a member of the Tau Sigma Delta National Architecture Honor Society and won other design studio and academic awards.

— Phillip Tutor, CCFA media coordinator,

Published inDepartment of Architecture

One Comment

  1. Matt

    What a talented emerging professional and insightful design! I am inspired to see the thought process showing how we can address mental health through architecture.

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