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Architecture (MA)

Nicole McIntosh

Nicole McIntosh is a London-based architectural and spatial designer, who surrounds her work around neuroarchitecture and how both exterior and interior spaces can be responsive to the psychological needs of our society. 

She graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Architecture from Kingston School of Art, where her projects mainly looked at creating socially and environmentally sustainable buildings. Nicole has since gained industry experience as an architectural assistant, contributing to projects in various sectors including, a refurbishment/ new build of an SEN school.

During her first year at the Royal College of Art in ADS9, her project 'Girls at Dhabas', looked at the relationship women have with public spaces in Pakistan. Her final proposal whilst structured upon the ethics of a feminist group called 'Girls at Dhabas', aimed to provide women in Lahore, Pakistan, a space to relax, socialise and ‘loiter’ as a collective in public.

Her final year project 'Diverse Relations', explores how existing environments can be adapted to provide comfortable spaces for people within the neurodiverse community without excluding the neurotypical, creating convivial moments.

A site scent model

DIVERSE RELATIONS: For moments to be convivial they need to be accessible

Space is constructed by a sensory experience. What can you hear, feel, taste, see and smell in this moment?

When it comes to designing a city, a house, a room - architects have full control and envision how the space should be used. Throughout this project I explored how architects could start to create moulds and architecture that can be continuously amended and used in different ways by the users.

Between 15 to 20% of the world’s population are neurodivergent.

The term neurodiversity was created by Judy Singer in 1998, defining brains that have neurological differences and therefore have a unique way of processing information. As a minority there are many misconceptions about neurodivergent people, one being that their neurological ‘difference’ or ‘condition’ can provide an indication of their intelligence. However, it can only indicate the experience or way in which they process their senses which affects various parts of their social-emotional and cognitive development 

Meaning 15 to 20% of people experience or process their senses in a different way to the neurotypical, affecting various parts of their social-emotional and cognitive development.

So how does the architect approach this?

Today the system in which architects work traditionally supports and engages with neurotypical people due to systematic structure of education and the majority of the world categorized as this type. As a result of this repeated approach, it has created a world that conforms to how neurotypical people respond to space. 

This project deconstructs the existing system of designing buildings, challenges recent approaches of designing neurodivergent spaces and proposes a new design model which engages with all five senses forming spatial tools for communication. 

Being aware of the neurodivergent community’s adapted proxemics and the sheer amount of people that are not completely engaging with society, it is important to provide more inviting environments.

Understanding their sensory differences, the proposed space will act as a tool for communication and interactions, providing an opportunity for both neurotypical and divergent people to engage unchallenged.

Through adapting standard dimensions of furniture as well as the body, this proposal uses a topography to change the relationship we have with space through blending both the neurodivergent and typical proxemics.

Inclusive projects do not need to be restricted or reduced to a building standard, but can be achieved through multisensory research and design.


The architectural studio is the most symbolic place of production for any architectural student: a place where you read, you write, you converse, you listen, you make. These activities are all intertwined and happening at the same time. Here you are exposed to various odours, and extremely harsh lighting, alongside the noise of people conversing while in tutorials. Through observing the routine of both my academic peers and myself, there are evident moments that could increase someone's anxiety, such as people watching your tutorial or presentation while walking past the studio space. How can a space provide comfort?

1 to 1 section model of final proposal
1 to 1 section model of final proposal
1 to 1 section model of final proposal
1 to 1 section model of final proposal
1 to 1 section model of final proposal
1 to 1 section model of final proposal
1:1 Section Model of the Proposed Studio Space
1:20 model
1:20 model
1:20 Model of the Proposed Studio Space

Diverse Relations uses the architecture studio to establish a new form of designing space. Developing a topography referencing the body and domestic objects, along with the tactile sensations from the cork, provides an adaptable and comforting studio space.

The proposed plan for the studio space is an arrangement of zones, allowing the user to prescribe the use of the space. This provides both the student and tutors the opportunity to change the dynamics of their interactions with each other, offering an anxiety-reducing space. Here there are moments when someone can choose to see others or to be seen, within the open plan.

Exploded Isometric Drawing of 1:1 Model
Exploded Isometric Drawing of 1:1 Model
A Neurodivergent Experience, Virtual Reality Video

With the vast array of 'conditions' placed on a multifaceted spectrum, there cannot be a generalization of a neurodivergent person’s experience, but commonalities. Within their daily routines, there are moments where they may excel in a skill to an incomprehensible level or struggle with something seen as a simple task, which could be defined as an inaccessible activity.

Neurodivergent statistics and the process of our senses
Neurodivergent and Neurotypical Proxemics Diagram
collages of accessible interiors inline with PAS: 6463
neurodivergent vr experience
photograph of material sample
development model

In response to understanding the ‘condition’, within their routine, a neurodivergent person might restrict themselves to similar or familiar environments, whether it is a geographical location or the people around them creating a boundary between them and unadaptable environments. By doing so, they allow themselves to be in spaces and social situations where they feel comfortable and somewhat in control, therefore reducing their levels of anxiety. However, this is not to be interpreted as all neurodivergent people never seeking out unfamiliar spaces.

These behaviours could transform a neurodivergent person’s proxemics register, reflecting differently from the neurotypical. Rather than routinely engaging with every layer (intimate, personal, social, public), they may restrict themselves to interactions or explorations within their intimate and personal layer.

Acknowledging the recent publication of PAS:6463 by The British Standards Institution, I collected and catalogued materials, as means of understanding multisensory design. Exploring how words translate into an experience. Alongside this, I created visuals using different environments and transformed them into accessible spaces, using the guidance of PAS-6463.

Sound reverberations and uncomfortable pitches
High volume and constant sensory stimulation sound and visual
Highly reflective facade
Visual stress

What is an inaccessible space? What are the existing invisible barriers in public areas? How does it feel?

Sensory Site Plan of Borough Market - Case Study Research

Borough Market is seen as a convivial space. However, due to a lack of focus on the sensory experience during its design stages, it has resulted in an uncomfortable place for the public to visit. Here I recorded my own experiences and identified the causes and moments of overstimulation.

photos of borough market
Stills from Borough Market
photo of scent site model
Scent Model of Site 2, Borough Market
photos of borough market
Stills from Borough Market