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Wayfinding in health facility

Health facilities are frequently-used public infrastructures that are of extremely large size and complex design. To facilitate the users, they must be designed with characteristics that are conductive to effective wayfinding. Using the ideology of urban planner, Kevin Lynch, wayfinding in health facilities could be categorised into five legible elements  paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks (Lynch, 1960). Through coordinating these five groups of wayfinding elements, a health facility would be able to alleviate its users’ stress while giving them a sense of emotional security and privacy.

First, paths in health facilities are of high clarity. Walkways compose the circulation system in health faculties that enables accessibility to different places within the complex. Using different design elements, such as, degree of openness and shape, walkways would be able to attract attention and allow an incorporation of directional qualities, articulating a suggested path of movement for the visitors (Rengel, 2014). For example, the Paediatric Clinic of Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital uses patterning and extreme narrowness (in comparison to the clinic’s entrance) of the corridor to attract attention and guide visitors’ movement (Figure 1). Additionally, this clarity is sometime further enhanced with track-following, a wayshowing strategy where the route to an intended destination is shown with track on the walkways (Mollerup, 2009). Visitors simply need to follow the labelled track on the path to reach the predetermined location. For example, at a hospital in Wroclaw, the designer identifies the use of coloured tracks on the walkway to depict the route visitor should take to reach his destination.Second, health facilities use screens extensively as edges. Edges are structures that provide people with a means of spatial orienting and a judgment of boundary (Bjorngaard, 2010). Because edges are mostly physically non-penetrable, their presence could give health facilities’ users a sense of security and privacy. On the other hand, an excessive installation of impermeable edges, such as, concrete and brick walls, may give users an perception of being trapped, and therefore adversely magnify their stress level. An overuse of concrete edges would also limit the flexibility of space usage. Therefore, to strike a balance between privacy and anxiety level, screens, in the forms of plants, artificial waterfall or glass partitions (Cullen, 2012), are widely adopted in health facilities (Figure 3 and 4). The semi- permeability of screens allows direction of movement towards a destination and protection of privacy while still maintaining the impression of an open area in health facilities (Miller & Schlitt”,1985)Third, health facility as a whole is divided into various meaningful districts. A health facility is always divided into smaller districts according to the functions and corresponding users of that area. This disintegration allows the facility as an enormous complex to be broken down into manageable memories that facilitate users’ cognitive mapping for wayfinding (Levine, 2003). To help visitors to identify different district, the distinction of districts is usually reinforced by tangible traits, such as, texture, colour, that increase definition of space within a given district (Cullen, 2012). For example, at the lobby of Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital, the black tile flooring of check-in district is in contrast to the white marble flooring of waiting district to create a sense of identity for distinction (Figure 5). Fourth, nodes are accompanied with sufficient directory information. Being the walkaway junctures, visitors are most likely more cautious at nodes as a decision must be made before proceeding to the next step (Lynch, 1960). To facilitate this decision making process, sufficient directory guidance in the form of signage or assistance tools, such as, digital Kiosks, must be clearly presented at each and every nodes. For instance, the Children’s Hospital of Boston introduced massive overhead sign with distinctive colour partitions at the node to advise visitors their ways to the destinations.

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