Project report: Vlada Brusilovska Charitable Foundation

Innovative designs for children with neurological disorders 

Grantee: Vlada Brusilovska Charitable Foundation, Ukraine 
Project: To improve the design of hospital play areas for children with neurological disorders 

Medical institutions frighten patients and create an atmosphere of stigma around them. Often, children with neurological conditions and their families find themselves cut off from the outside world and the life of their society. To deal with this problem, the team at the Vlada Brusilovska Charitable Foundation created the design project CUBA BUBA in 2017. The idea is based on more than one hundred research projects on Healing Architecture and Evidence-Based Design. The CUBA BUBA team adapted this academic research to improve the hospital architecture to suit the condition of the children, the capabilities of Ukrainian hospitals and the needs of visitors. 

The aim of the project is to create mobile designer play areas of 2.4 x 1.7 x 2.3 metres, for the development and recreation of children who need regular stays in hospital.  The size of the play areas allows them to be housed in hospital rooms, and their design provides for play zones suitable for different age groups. 

CUBA BUBA #1 in Dnepro’s City Children’s Hospital No 3, in 2017

The project team has already created 14 play spaces. These modules significantly reduce the children’s stress levels and help them to relate to medical staff with greater confidence. The children feel themselves to be creators and travellers. Thanks to this approach, the hospital resembles a children’s playground, and the child’s treatment makes them feel more like a hero, and stronger. This helps their recovery and emotional state. 

In February 2021, thanks to support from the BEARR Trust, a BUBA.Matrix was built for the Stepan Inclusive Resource Centre. Every year about 100 children with various problems affecting their nervous systems receive treatment there. Treatment takes the form of games. Children learn to read, speak, exercise their muscles, logic and willpower, and find new friends. Now they go to their lessons with a smile! 

BUBA.Matrix is a snow-white canvas with 9,500 holes for 3D drawings with coloured climbing ropes. The design was awarded the top prize in the Ukrainian design contest “Interior of the Year” in 2017, and in 2018 it was the Ukrainian exhibit at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Its functionality and durability are unlimited. 

BUBA.Matrix in Stepan Inclusive Resource Centre, 2022

The first BUBA.Matrix was installed at the Dnepro City Children’s Hospital No 5, where its potential was immediately spotted by leading specialists, who developed a methodology for using it with exercises using coloured cards. As a result, BUBA.Matrix started being used for the rehabilitation of children suffering from disorders of the nervous system, psychological problems, and psychological trauma. Today they are used in seven neurological centres in Ukraine. 

BUBA.Matrix at the Dnepro City Children’s Hospital No 5 in 2017.

In 2019 the Stepan Inclusive Resource Centre approached the design team at CUBA BUBA. Qualified rehab experts who want to improve their knowledge and love working with children asked for BUBA.Matrix play equipment to use in their rehab work. So CUBA BUBA started to look for funding and was supported by The BEARR Trust. There were still hurdles to overcome: while the order was still being processed the cost of materials rose by 30%. Thanks to an active information campaign by the Vlada Brusilovska Foundation, additional funding to cover the gap was secured via social media.  

Stepan is a village in the Rivne region in Ukraine. In remote locations like this, far from the country’s capital city, innovation and help from charities are slow to arrive. That is why this project was carried out here. The availability of modern rehabilitation equipment helps the staff to do their work better, using new methods and creating a network of cooperation between leading professionals in their field across Ukraine who are using BUBA.Matrix in their work. 

An additional positive effect of the play design is that it reminds specialists that children with nervous disorders want to play, make friends and be full members of society. The project serves as a reminder that in public spaces there should be inclusive facilities so that everyone’s psychological and physical needs can be met. And it isn’t difficult to provide such conditions; there is nothing special about them, and they should be accessible to all. 

BUBA.Matrix in Stepan Inclusive Resource Centre, 2022. Children solving tasks by themselves.

Using modern architecture shows how important attractive and functional infrastructure is for the comfortable and dignified development of society. It helps to develop tolerance and a different world view, in which no-one need be deprived so that others can benefit. Inclusivity for children with disabilities and their families helps to remove the stigma which previously hindered their involvement in society. 

BUBA.Matrix in Stepan Inclusive Resource Centre, 2022. Rehab activities.

While playing, children don’t notice differences between them, they learn to compromise, cooperate, and understand each other, and this carries over into other spheres of their lives. 

BUBA.Matrix is designed by Ukrainian designers, Katerina and Valeria Kuznetsov (decorcuznetsov), who have been awarded the Red Dot Design Award and iF Design prizes. 


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