Last week I visited the New Struan Autism School in Alloa, to look at the design elements of the building and how this helps autistic pupils work within the space and manage more challenging parts of their behaviour. I took photo’s as I went so see below…
Main ‘street’ of the school. The school is designed so you can see all the way through the school and out the other side. The theory is that if pupils can see the outside world, and have the feeling of openness then they are less likely to want to leave, or abscond. The corridor in the street is purposely wide so that pupils never feel crowded or penned in, and also allows pupils and staff to pass each other while maintaining a safe/comfortable space from each other.
All the doors in the school are colour co-ordinated, each class room has a different coloured door, so that it is easy pupils to return to the correct door once they have left.
Through out the school the carpet leads you through the spaces. Dark blue carpet are moving spaces (e.g. corridors), light blue are still spaces (libraries, classrooms etc).
Doors that look like doors, so help you find them, and instinctively how to use it. Note the door frame is in contrast to both the wall and door. Door handles that are easy to locate and easy to use.
Some pupils have difficulty getting to class, crossing thresholds and then staying in class… so the class rooms are designed to have a soft entrance which leads them into the room. When we were there one pupil only got as far as the entrance bay, so the class came out and all joined him there, allowing him to still attend.
The school has a number of flexible spaces to use according to pupils needs, below is one room which is currently being used a quiet space/breakaway space, where this pupil sits, works, unwinds when the class room becomes too much.
The library is open plan from the main ‘street’, unlike other schools where access to the library is limited to avoid damage, Struan finds that the open plan nature of the school actually stops damage to resources.
The photo below is the of the casing for the utilities (power supply, fire safety system etc), they have cladded it with mirrors to give the illusion that you can see all the way down the corridor, creating a feeling of space