Designing Buildings for People with Autism

Dr. Magda Mostafa, Assistant Professor at the Department of Architectural Engineering at the American University in Cairo who also serves as Deputy Vice-President for Africa in the UNESCO-International Union of Architects’ Education Commission and Validation Council, was asked back in 2002 to design Egypt’s first educational facility for autism. She was surprised to find no guidelines for such a project existed anywhere. Dr. Magda decided to do her own research in order to create designs with the sensory and social needs of people with autism in mind.

“Her study, completed in 2008, was “among the first autism design studies to be prospective not retrospective, have a control group, and measure quantifiable factors in a systematic way.” The results of her research led to the development of the Autism ASPECTSS™ Design Index, a matrix to help guide design, as well as to assess the appropriateness of a standing building for individuals with autism. The Index presents seven design/criteria issues that have been shown to foster positive behavior and skill development in people with autism. They are Acoustics, Spatial sequencing, Escape spaces, Compartmentalization, Transition spaces, Sensory zoning, and Safety.” You can read Dr. Mostafa’s 2008 study here. There is also an in-depth interview with her in Arch Daily.

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