Sweetwater engaged award-winning architects, Leddy Maytum Stacy of San Francisco to design the development. With the anchors of stability and familiarity, residents have a variety of choices—enjoying quiet spaces or the calming waters of a therapy pool, working in the farm or engaging in cooking classes, art, exercise, music and much more.
The physical environment for persons with autism is very important. They are often sensitive to outside stimuli. Sweetwater has been designed with special considerations to minimizing visual stimulation, ambient sound, lighting and odors. There are simple, predictable spaces. Durable materials have been utilized throughout the development. Individuals have the opportunity to customize their personal living spaces to accommodate their preferences and particular needs. The environment and opportunities created help to make Sweetwater Spectrum a successful home for its residents, and provides a paradigm for replication.
Research undertaken at the Arizona State University Stardust Center and School of architecture led to the formulation of evidence-based design goals and guidelines to direct future housing design and development for adults with autism. Their final report, Advancing Full Spectrum Housing: Designing for Adults with Autism Syndrome Disorders, helped guide the design. A companion report produced by the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and Urban Land Institute Arizona entitled Opening Doors: A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism was also used in preparing the final design.