Adjacency Matrix Decoded

In this post I will show you first how to read an adjacency matrix, and then will share a few tools and templates you can use to create your own.

The programming phase of your project is complete! Lists have been made of required spaces, questions have been asked, preliminary concepts approved, and now you sit with a blank building footprint, trying to draw the first wall.

Moving from programming to schematic design is difficult. It’s about taking abstract concepts and requirements from your client and shaping them into a usable preliminary plan. Luckily, tools exist to help bridge the gap between program and plan. One of these tools is called The Adjacency Matrix.

In this case we use the word ‘adjacent’ to mean: “lying near, close, or contiguous; adjoining; neighboring.” In simple terms, to be adjacent is to be near to something. In interior design an adjacency matrix is a table that shows what spaces should and should not be near to each other on plan.

Spending the time to draw this matrix means that you no longer have to leaf through your program every time you can’t remember if the client wants the Board Room close to the Break Room. If done correctly, all of that information is right at your fingertips. In my experience, the adjacency matrix is not particularly useful as a space planning tool, but is useful as a reference. You use it to easily make sure you are giving the client what they want when you move on to space planning via bubble diagrams and block diagrams.

Reading an Adjacency Matrix.

Google search “Interior Design Adjacency Matrix” and you will find tables so complex you will shudder at the thought of creating on yourself. For example, this matrix from my undergraduate capstone project at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point has a lot of good information, but can be an intimidating place to start.

Fortunately, once you know how, reading any size matrix is easy. Here we go…

All programmed spaces are listed on one side of the table. When you need to see what the adjacencies of two spaces are, you locate the two area names and then follow their rows of boxes to where they intersect. The box at the intersection will contain a symbol associated with different adjacency types. Most commonly I see the following: Primary Adjacency (spaces must be directly next to each other), Secondary Adjacency (spaces must be close to each other), and Undesired Adjacency (spaces should not be close to each other). Obviously you can expand on this if desired, but for most projects this three tier adjacency rating is sufficient.

Now, let’s see what this actually looks like.

Here is a simple matrix for a residential project:


Solid Circle = Primary Adjacency
Circle Outline = Secondary Adjacency
Horizontal Line = Undesired Adjacency

Start by looking at the space requirements for the Master Bedroom and Master Bathroom. Here is that same table, with only those two spaces shown.


When the two programmed lines are singled out like this it’s easy to see that these spaces have a primary adjacency rating and therefore should be close to one another on plan. Really, reading an adjacency matrix is about filtering out the visual noise that doesn’t relate directly to the two spaces you are comparing.

Creating an Adjacency Matrix.

There is no easy way that I have found to create these damn things. Sorry!

I have been playing around with different online charting systems to see if there is one that will be super effective. Although I didn’t manage to get any of them to work there is still a lot of great software out there, do you have any additional suggestions?

My favorites:

The sample matrix I started with looks like this:

Trial and error aside I circled back around to the tried and true AutoCAD. Use CAD to draw your matrix, plot it, and then render it by hand or in Photoshop. To make this a little easier I have made an adjacency matrix template that you can download and manipulate to fit the needs of your projects.

Adjacency Matrix CAD Template

After the basic structure of the matrix is in place you can layer on additional information like public to private zoning, square footage, daylight, etc. The information that can be loaded into a matrix is unlimited. And, the more you add, the cooler your matrix looks.

Happy creating!

25 responses to “Adjacency Matrix Decoded”

  1. Marcia Vanessa Silva Avatar
    Marcia Vanessa Silva

    hi, my Matrix is showing half I can’t scroll it down. can you help me with that?

    1. Hello Marcia! Which template are you using? My favorite one of the option is this:
      I just did a trial matrix and it seems to be working okay for me. Let me which one you are trying to use and I’ll see if I can help you out!

  2. I can’t see all my list. It’s up to 18 rows only, then the image where we put legends is cut. Help with this?

    Btw, thanks for this!!!

  3. There is this CAD/BIM software that does Adjacency Matrix layouts

  4. […] You can use various data analysis tools when analyzing circulatory requirements in your plan. Matrix diagrams and bubble diagrams are explicitly designed to analyze architectural […]

  5. I hope you could fix this, I think it’s truly helpful but, it’s keep cutting off after 17 lines I think.

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