Abstract

Harnessing all different dimensions of space is an immense, if not hopeless task. Thus the design of space is challenged by a complexity of meanings. The meaning attributed to a certain physical environment depends to a large extent on the personal interpretation people attach to this environment, influenced by their personal interests, attention and perceptual possibilities, whatever the designer’s line of thought that generated this built environment. Aware of the diverse ways in which a designed environment can be received, this paper attempts to understand the built environment from another perspective. It reports on a study that starts from different people with autism spectrum conditions, throwing light on their spatial interpretation and the way they deal with the physical environment. Insights from an analysis of autobiographies of people with autism, tinged with the experiences of engaging with people with autism in different contexts, give an idea of what understanding another view on the built environment could imply. This paper presents fragments of a particular autistic world of experience as a challenge to open our eyes. It illustrates how some people with autism place an enforced confidence in the direct perception of the built environment, and it highlights the influence of extra connotations—exceeding the directly perceptible—which are inherently connected to space in our society. In an attempt to look at the built environment from this perspective, this stance enables us to be critical of the way we—architects and designers—think about designing space and it spurs us to be alive to the multiple complexity of space.

Keywords:

Architectural Design, Autism Spectrum, Built Environment, Design Thinking, Interpretation Of Space, Interaction With Space

Share

COinS
 
Jul 7th, 12:00 AM

Beyond the Designers’ View: How People with Autism Experience Space

Harnessing all different dimensions of space is an immense, if not hopeless task. Thus the design of space is challenged by a complexity of meanings. The meaning attributed to a certain physical environment depends to a large extent on the personal interpretation people attach to this environment, influenced by their personal interests, attention and perceptual possibilities, whatever the designer’s line of thought that generated this built environment. Aware of the diverse ways in which a designed environment can be received, this paper attempts to understand the built environment from another perspective. It reports on a study that starts from different people with autism spectrum conditions, throwing light on their spatial interpretation and the way they deal with the physical environment. Insights from an analysis of autobiographies of people with autism, tinged with the experiences of engaging with people with autism in different contexts, give an idea of what understanding another view on the built environment could imply. This paper presents fragments of a particular autistic world of experience as a challenge to open our eyes. It illustrates how some people with autism place an enforced confidence in the direct perception of the built environment, and it highlights the influence of extra connotations—exceeding the directly perceptible—which are inherently connected to space in our society. In an attempt to look at the built environment from this perspective, this stance enables us to be critical of the way we—architects and designers—think about designing space and it spurs us to be alive to the multiple complexity of space.

 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.