- Building Navigation -
Two clinics occupy this former 1970s built tax office, which was converted in 2005. The main reception on the ground floor caters for both clinics, with access to Beaconsfield on the third floor via lifts or stairs. A large volume of visually conflicting signage, posters and leaflets obscures viable routes to the clinic; this makes way finding confusing and causes high levels of patient confusion.
The architects’ own findings concurred with the practice manager’s observations. The poor modular layout of the building inhibits clear orientation and a mass of hierarchical, printed information exacerbates the situation. The consolidation of navigational aids from the reception to the clinic is a priority issue. The fabric of the building offers the potential to be re-defined and to reveal routes and landmarks. By creating transparency and visibility through the new design the visibility of the stairs can be enhanced and so become a more integral part of a patient’s journey through the building.
Jo Castle-Henry focused on the internal corridors leading to the clinic, where orientation is confused by a lack of external views. This design strips away signage and opens up fissures in the ceiling space, allowing diffuse natural light to permeate the corridors. The construction methods reflect and focus the light through the corridors, playing with its inherent qualities. Apertures cut into the building create an interplay of light, shade and reflection, which in turn produce subtle landmarks in otherwise indistinct spaces. No longer dominated by excessive signage, this soothing environment allows users to experience lower levels of anxiety and to navigate their way to the clinic more easily.
Kate Vickery’s design brings light into the centre of the building, connecting the corridor and reception areas, which currently feel dislocated and removed from the access points such as the stairs and lifts. The design introduces fluidity and openness by removing the walls that currently create awkward, redundant spaces. She also connects the central areas by cladding the stairwell and lift in opaque glass; this introduces a block of light through the building and reveals access points throughout the structure. The distilled qualities of the light behind the glass combined with the movement of people using the stairs and lift creates spectacle and intrigue. The additional element of a long, continuous bench that wraps around a newly revealed space and through into waiting room enables patients to sit more freely and flexibly during their wait.
Many healthcare buildings cause confusion and increase anxiety through poor, modular design layouts that inhibit clear orientation and navigation. Signage used to rectify this problem often exacerbates it. Being in comfortable, non-intrusive buildings should be at the forefront of design for future health care buildings if we are to see significant change in mental, social and physical health. Transforming clinical buildings into places people actually want to visit can be achieved by introducing greater levels of natural light into the circulation areas of buildings to produce beautiful, playful and functional environments.