Human perception and the built environment : a proposed Autism Life Learning Centre for Durban.
Buildings affect people both physically and psychologically, this study analyses this impact which the built environment has on people's lives. This interrelationship between people and the built environment is based on human perception. The study explores this relationship further in order to develop an understanding of the ways in which architecture influences peoples' moods, behaviours and experiences. By determining the importance of this interrelationship and developing a better understanding of it, a deeper analysis of the specialized needs of individuals with altered or impaired perceptions is developed. Focus is placed on individuals with autism spectrum disorders, who are known for their difficulties with perception. In addition, despite its overwhelming prevalence, they have a history of being inadequately catered for within the built environment because their wide range of complex needs are poorly understood. The purpose of this study is to establish an understanding of the unique needs of this particular user group, to interpret the implications of these needs with regards to the built environment, to assess existing facilities in regards to these findings and to provide information which can be used to develop guidelines for creating positive environments which can enhance the daily lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The research was carried out by way of a review of existing relevant literature on the subject of perception, experience and autism spectrum disorders, a review of relevant precedent studies, a critical analysis of relevant case studies and interviews with parents, teachers and principals who have had first-hand experience with individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The built environment, which plays a large role in people's lives, must be carefully considered and designed to ensure that the needs of its users are met and their overall wellbeing is maintained. In contemporary society, where human needs are often ignored, built environments have become ego-driven objects of visual seduction (Pallasmaa, 2005). This study calls for re-humanising architecture, considering human aspects in design and catering for all human needs. By focusing on responding to users particular needs, throughout the design process, buildings which make significant, positive contributions to the lives of individuals can be made.