LOOK: 20 World-Renown Architects Create Uncommon Dollhouses for Kids with Special Needs

Barbie’s Dreamhouse gets a lot of press. Because it belongs to Barbie, of course, and because it’s purportedly built to the specs of every little girl’s fantasy.

But not every little girl can appreciate what Barbie appreciates — physically and emotionally. Especially little girls (and boys) with special needs.

A UK-based charity called KIDS supports disabled children and their families by running home-learning programs, specialized nursery and daycare programs, and a series of inclusive adventure programs. It is in that spirit that some of the world’s most famous architects and designers have created a series of dollhouses (that we first saw on The Huffington Post) to be auctioned off in support of KIDS.

They’re not just any old houses for dolls, however. Each one is designed uniquely — and extraordinarily — with features “to make life easier for a child with a disability.” That doesn’t mean function wins over fashion, though, as all have been inspired by the dollhouses that Edwin Lutyens designed for The British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1922 “using a very traditional children’s toy to display the very best of modern architecture, craftsmanship, art and interior design.”

All of the dollhouses with be auctioned off on November 11 at Bonhams in London, with proceeds to benefit KIDS.

Take a look at the fantastic, whimsical, gorgeous, exceptional, painstaking, playful and fun designs:

  • A Doll’s House 1 of 21

    All photos by Thomas Butler

  • James Ramsey Raad Studio 2 of 21

    The Grimm's House is not just a dolls' house, but an interpretation of an illustrated fairy tale book for blind children. White, enigmatic, and somewhat menacing, the house is meant to be explored by touch. The story of Hansel and Gretel, written in braille, circumscribes the exterior, its jagged path mirroring the narrative of the story. The interior cavity is a tactile exploration of the fairytale, sculpted from hard candy, braided hair, and bones. The house translates an unnerving yet universal experience for children with sight into a new interpretation for those without.

  • Duggan Morris Architects 3 of 21

    Multi-story has been designed to aid early intervention strategies for children with developmental disability Autistic Spectrum Disorder. In consultation with Christina, mother of high functioning autistic Louis (5), the house swaps the visually noisy cross section of the typical dolls house with a set of rooms arranged in either a stack or plan form. Each room can be used in isolation or as part of a sequence to provide a focused platform for learning and role play.

  • Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands 4 of 21

    A dolls' house made of three-sided rooms is a miniature domestic world where rooms are composed and stacked by children with learning disabilities and sensory impairments. Small houses, cities, even worlds are created by the children and the rooms rely on connections with one another to form a whole. Rooms of delight react to movement and respond to touch and hearing senses with particular appeal to children with sight and dual sensory loss.

  • HLM Architects 5 of 21

    Sound [Play]ce is an interactive tower which focuses on the movement of a body through both urban and domestic spaces by creating a series of unique environments to which the body will respond acoustically. The differing sounds generated by a marble running through this system highlights a responsive design that aids visually impaired children with the often difficult process of forming global spatial images - be it during play or in the urban realm.

  • DRMM 6 of 21

    House for a Deaf Child has been designed around the consideration of a deaf child. It's an object to play and learn with, but also is a space to inhabit, designed to support visual communication through sign language. The exterior has adjustable pieces to give colour expression on the outside, and control of light and views from the inside. With further discovery these pieces can be reconfigured into new spaces and furniture.

  • DRDH Architects 7 of 21

    Play House is a toy theatre, based on the 18th-19th century paper Theatres Popular. The dressing rooms, scenery and lifts can be enjoyed as a dolls' house for imaginative play, or as a true theatre for children to stage performances. The theatre features working scenery lifts and curtains in the fly tower, making all floors accessible to its actors and audience. We hope that future owners might have fun creating their own worlds and stories within it.

  • Adjaye Associates 8 of 21

    Electra House is a flexible home that contains a live/work space. Designed to be accessible to all, the ground floor is a continuous space, undulating between outdoor courtyard and creative indoor space. Light is a phenomenological presence inside the house, its properties of reflection, luminosity and movement provide the focal experience for all.

  • Coffey Architects 9 of 21

    Inside Out is an inclusive dolls' house for all children whatever their needs and abilities. One element is a concrete house with a bonsai tree and herb garden which sits outside. The second, a series of elements that are individual oak rooms, hollowed out in bright colours that can be inserted into the house. It is fun for children and encourages outdoor play and most importantly raises a critical housing issue for families with disabled children.

  • Dexter Moren Architects 10 of 21

    Haptic House is based on the concept of 'sensory play', the dolls' house encourages children to look, listen, touch and feel. A series of components, identical in character, which aim to inspire children, bring the house to life by stimulating the primary senses. Unlike conventional Doll's House design, the 360-degree access means there are no defined rules of how it should be played -inviting the option of group play or individual discovery.

  • Guy Hollaway 11 of 21

    Jack in a Box is a design solution which makes the imaginary reality so that the child can live within their fantasy, becoming 'Alice'. They are confronted by a simple box. When switched on, the inflatable structure inside begins to fill with air powered by an integrated fan. In a sequence of events, the dolls' house roof opens and the walls collapse to allow the organic structure to grow out of the box.

  • Glenn Howells 12 of 21

    The Extra-Ordinary House has been generated by 2 ideas. Firstly, the most important house type in the UK is the most ordinary one, the terraced house, this simple idea has produced some of the best and most durable accommodation we have. Secondly, that our dolls' house will be a robust timber construction that explains how this house works through touch and feel rather, so enabling a child with impaired sight to understand how its volumes relate to living.

  • Zaha Hadid Architects 13 of 21

    This must be the place is an interpretation of the Ideal House pavilion commissioned in 2007, the ZHA doll's house is a puzzle offering many possibilities to play and experiment in creating endless variety of unique compositions. It is designed to encourage a continual re-evaluation of composition and form. Pieces can be assembled and dismantled in many combinations, to be re-assessed with each new composition voids are interpreted as new unique rooms or courtyards for dolls to inhabit.

  • Make Architects 14 of 21

    Jigsaw House is inspired by one of the oldest and simplest games,the jigsaw puzzle, a large house was created, made up of many small houses. Each partner in the practice was encouraged to invent their own house filling each room with their own sensory expressions of play and colour. The result is 26 fully designed houses with a further 20 empty houses to combine and complement the Jigsaw House.

  • Amodels 15 of 21

    Elvisʼs Tree House is based on a real playground in Southampton. The simple concept was to be as physically challenging as possible, because kids learn for themselves faster that way. So why Elvis, well thatʼs a long story.

  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris 16 of 21

    Compass House has been designed for children with visual impairment in mind, we expanded our use of colour and texture to bring the house to life for them. It's a weekend retreat - a place of escape that acts as a backdrop for ever changing scenarios.

  • Fat Architecture 17 of 21

    Tower of Fable is a fantasy about a very real piece of architecture: a toy sized remake of the Balfron Tower. This transformation brings out qualities of Goldfinger's architecture that lie just beneath its surface. Brutalism here is revealed as exciting as a country cottage. High architecture joins with the imagination of inhabitation and fantasies of play. Which of course, is exactly what architecture should always be.

  • Studio Egret West 18 of 21

    Puzzle House is a house with 2 distinct embodiments, when not in use it's a tidy colourful rectangular box and when in play mode, the construction explodes into 7 separate pieces, which are hollow spaces. Each space contains a jewellery-like object designed by artist Andrew Logan: a stair of mirrors, a ladder, a diving board, a few thimbles, a chain, a propeller. The house avoids any inhabited formal space and instead stimulates play focused on performance. The emphasis is on imagination rather than re-enactment.

  • SHEDKM 19 of 21

    Outside/In is a collection of exterior-like spaces that celebrate the sensory experience of being in the landscape. A house that is elemental in its experience, with colour, light, shade, reflectivity, long-distant views being important stimuli. It rotates like a Rubik puzzle around a spiral stair. We have considered a house that could provide escape for a visually impaired child. This house is about looking through and beyond.

  • Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan 20 of 21

    there's a place out there to the west of town
    where nobody pushes no one around
    a place where birds and fishes play
    on a giant coral far away
    where the sun is warm and the breeze is cool
    and the sea is bluer than a swimming pool
    you can play music and dance all day
    on a giant coral far away
    a house on a coral in the deep blue sea
    a house on a coral in the deep blue sea
    just imagine you could be
    in the house on a coral in the deep blue sea

  • Mae 21 of 21

    mae-mak house is a house that can grow and change. It engages the senses and allows kids to stick and stack walls, floors, roofs to form a simple house, a complex house, many houses or a very big house. Brightly coloured and textured panels are made to stimulate the senses and inspire customisation. It exploits mae's interest in flexible housing, MAKLab's skill at fabrication and Buro Happold's understanding of inclusive design.


To bid on the dollhouses, please visit A Dolls’ House

Photo credits: Thomas Butler

All photos & descriptions used with permission


Article Posted 2 years Ago
share this article
facebook twitter tumblr pinterest
See Comments
what do you think?
share this article
facebook twitter tumblr pinterest
See Comments
what do you think?
what do you think?
close comments
Subscribe to the
Welcome to
Sign Out
Follow us on