Observation of the playground from behind glass windows

Observation of the playground from behind glass windows

Recommendation 15
For young children create an outdoor space / playground which can be observed from behind glass windows

Chapter (theme)
Schoolyard / around school (sightlines / design)

Because of
limitations in interaction and communication, ego-dimension and touch (pain)

In order to
observe and counteract bullying and social exclusion and to notice pain and injury in real time.

Sunfield school is a treatment center for young autistic children in the British county of Worcestershire, which is a textbook example of autism-friendly design.
Teresa Whitehurst (one of the ‘core-authors’) has described this building extensively in connection with its evaluation.
We quote the relevant passage:
“The outdoor space which was secure and visible from the main building allowed the children to play freely and essentially ‘unsupervised’. Staff could offer minimal supervision, monitoring children visually through the abundant windows. This had a significant impact on both children and staff. One child in particular got upset in his previous accommodation if he could not go out on his bike (which needed direct staff supervision) or if staff stayed too close to him. This problem was resolved by the design features in the new accommodation.”

Sunfields architect, Simon Humphreys (also a ‘core-author’) explained his intentions in an article:
“Observation. We need to be able to easily observe the movements of children with autism for reasons of safety and well being, but it is important that this person does not feel as if they are being watched all the time. To feel free is important for children with autism. If we provide uncluttered internal and external spaces this will assist observation. If there are known secure boundaries that cannot be seen but are known, this allows the children with autism to get away from view.”




See this website.
Whitehurst, Teresa Evaluation of Features specific to an ASD designed Living Accommodation, Stourbridge West Midlands, Sunfield, 2007.
Humphreys, S ‘Autism & Architecture’. In: Link. Autism-Europe, 55(June)2011, p 9-13, 2011 (org. 2008) PDF.