It’s important that a school’s design not contribute to this feeling of intimidation. It should, in fact, help mitigate such feelings and facilitate positive interactions with teachers/staff and other students, as well as help students feel welcome. An elementary school’s reception desk provides an example of this.
But at the school in the image on the right, the reception desk has a center section low enough for students, even the youngest and shortest students, to see over and engage the adult on the other side face to face. It encourages the human connection between receptionist and student as opposed to hindering it, and as such, represents the better practice.
As a side note, part of the reason we conduct post occupancy evaluations is to give the occupant a voice and allow us to see the facility through their eyes. As I conducted the analysis after visiting both of these schools, I realized I could have done a better job at showing the school through the eyes of the younger students. None of the photographs were taken from their perspective. Imagine how much more powerful the contrasting images would have been had they been taken from a kindergartner’s eye level perspective.