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Planning & Design

Navigating public hospitals – the role of Urbanite

21 Nov 2019, by Amy Sarcevic

Designing the signage and wayfinding for a 488-bed, six storey public hospital is no easy feat; but it’s part of the challenge for multi-award-winning designer, Carlo Giannasca.

Giannasca heads up wayfinding consultancy, Urbanite – the firm tasked with designing the 6000 signs and 300 wall graphics that comprise the $840 million Northern Beaches Hospital in Sydney.

“Hospitals are stressful environments which require clear, concise and well-designed wayfinding systems,” said Mr. Giannasca, ahead of the National Hospital Infrastructure Summit.

“A key objective of ours was to quickly and efficiently get patients and visitors to their destinations with minimal confusion or anxiety.

“We also wanted to create memorable and describable journeys, rather than an over-reliance on signage. The graphics were intended to calm patients and attract attention to key areas such as department check-ins.”

Integration with the hospital was key, so that signage and wayfinding did not appear to be an afterthought; rather, merged with the architectural design and surrounding natural landscape.

“We drew inspiration from the local environment. The hospital is located in Sydney’s northern suburbs and is nestled between the beach and the bush. This provided a rich source of inspiration to the architects [BVN Architecture], and we wanted to capture the essence of the place in our work as well.

“I set off one weekend into the nearby Ku ring gai Chase National Park and the nearby beaches in search of inspiration and returned with a few bags full of leaves, seed pods, shells and various other items.

“I brought them all back to the studio and worked with a professional photographer to capture them all in minute detail. These images where then used as largescale wall graphics to enhance the wayfinding experience for patients, staff and visitors of the hospital.

“Working with a local photographer and an adjacent Northern Beaches primary school photography competition, we created two atrium super graphics acting as the main orientation points in the atrium space,” said Giannasca.

Since its inception in 2005, Urbanite has worked with clients across the health, education, commercial and hospitality sectors; but the firm is particularly passionate about its work on public hospitals.

“At the heart of everything we do is a belief that we can design a better world. We feel very privileged to be able to work on hospital infrastructure projects because our work can have a positive impact on how people experience and navigate through times when they may be under a great deal of duress. In a way, we are designing wellness and contributing to a successful outcome, which is very rewarding,” said Giannasca.

When asked where else the firm sourced it’s inspiration, Giannasca said, “We are strong proponents of collaboration as we believe the best outcome can only be possible through the meeting of many minds. Every project we undertake starts with deep engagement with all stakeholders on the project, especially the end users.

“We need to understand all their needs, frustrations, motivations and goals in order to design the best experience. This knowledge arms us with the best possible intelligence that fuels our inspiration. We work particularly closely with the architects and interior designers and draw inspiration from their creativity as well.

“Whatever we design has to integrate seamlessly with the surrounding environment and nothing we do happens in isolation. We prefer to get involved early on in a project so that we can embed our work into the very fabric of the building and compliment the architectural intent.”

Carlo Giannasca will be chairing the forthcoming National Hospital Infrastructure Summit, where he will share the stage with thought leaders from across the health and architectural sectors.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from the wide variety of speakers and learning what I can to supplement my knowledge of the sector. I normally operate within the creative sector so it will be great to hear from economists, hospital administrators, builders and academics and better understand their approach. It’s going to be a great opportunity to make new connections which could lead to collaborations in the future,” he said.

Learn more and register here.

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