Clear hallways and corridors

Recommendation 65
Make sure hallways and corridors are clear and permit overview

Chapter (theme)
Architectural spaces (stairs and corridors)

Because of
Central coherence, limitations in social interaction

In order to
avoid disorientation and resulting loosing ones way and being late.

Five out of six authors of what we have dubbed the core-literature find a clear physical and visual structure very important as design goals; some put these first. Among other things because of Central coherence problems, students often find it hard to know where in the building they are and how to get from one place to another. (See ‘orientation’.)
This is why the lay-out of a school, including halls and corridors, should have a very clear structure.

The British architect Simon Humphreys designed a school for autistic children in Newcastle in which “…the Junior and Senior schools are separated by the main communal and administration departments. The classrooms for each school are located off a courtyard (…which…) provides a constant source of reference when you circulate around the building or exit a classroom. The intention being that you are always connected with this source of reference and able to easily locate yourself at any point within the building therefore providing a source for calm, order and clarity.”

Comparable open and clear structures can be observed in the better designed schools such as the Western Autistic School by Hede Architects in Laverton (Victoria) in Australia.

‘Open and clear’ are the keywords here, leaning towards avoiding traditional corridors altogether. (See recommendation 62.) That, however, isn’t always applicable or desirable. A point in fact are the specific measures for younger students with more severe autism as proposed by McAllister & Maguire. One of the measures is to insure safe and sheltered routes between the classroom and the toilets: “Each classroom should have direct access to its own toilets. This can be from the classroom itself or from the cloakroom area which acts as a buffer between classroom and exterior. The toilet area should include an adequate area for changing. Fixtures and fittings should be at a scale suitable for the children. Generally two toilets and two wash hand basins are suitable.”

Here we see once more the tension between ‘open and clear’ on the one hand and ‘secluded and private’ on the other. While the former predominates in this case, we also see that in particular instances the latter can be the more sensible choice.


Humphreys, Simon, ‘Architecture: Taking autism into account or not?’, 2008. (On the site of The National Autistic Society some publications by Humphreys and other specialists can be found.)