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Abacus Spatial Diagrams

Designing new learning environments

This project involved a studio partnership between RMIT and Abacus Learning Centre for pre-school children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and addressed autism and its relationship to interior spaces. A key aspect of this research has been to move away from framing autism as a disorder, to instead help children better understand how they make sense of their surroundings, and subsequently make their learning environment more suitable for the way they learn. New learning ecologies lead to improved quality of life for children with ASD.

The project translates Abacus’s activities into spatial and temporal diagrams for a future design brief that would create this new learning environment. This partnered studio has led to a publication and an ongoing research project addressing autism and interior design. A roundtable discussion – Learning Lines – was held in December 2019 and brought together RMIT colleagues from Schools of Education and Architecture and Urban Design with potential industry partners to foster potential collaborations and develop future projects.

Get involved

If you would like to get involved with this project, fill out the form below or reach out to project leaders via the contact info provided alongside each bio.



Suzie Attiwill
Associate Dean Interior Design
School: Architecture and Urban Design

RMIT staff profile

Since 1991, Associate Professor Suzie Attiwill’s freelance practice has involved exhibition design, curatorial work and writing on interdisciplinary projects in Australia and overseas. Her practice poses questions of interior and interiority in relation to contemporary conditions of living, inhabitation, subjectivity, pedagogy and creative practice. Research is conducted through a practice of designing with a curatorial inflection attending to arrangements (and re-arrangements) of spatial, temporal and material relations. Projects include: urban + interior – a collaborative publication project bringing together an editorial team situated in Milan, Madrid and Melbourne; beyond building with Gregory Nicolau (Australian Childhood Trauma Group); Abacus Learning Centre – for children on the autism spectrum; and a series of curatorial experiments in ecologies of learning – physical, social and mental. Suzie is recognised internationally for her contribution to the discipline of interior design including workshop intensives: Radical Learning, Milan International Architecture Week; and Urban Interiorities in Nicosia, Cyprus; texts: interiorizt’, 2014; and Urban and Interior: techniques for an urban interiorist’, 2011. Artistic director of Craft Victoria (1996−99); board member/​chair, West Space (2006−10); chair, IDEA (Interior Design/​Interior Architecture Educators Association, 2006-12); executive board member, International Federation of Interior Architects/​Designers (2020−21).