Nelson Mandela’s Children Hospital

Nelson Mandela’s children hospital in Africa was posed with the issue of making an inherently stressful place less stressful. The designers used a way finding system to make it easier for families to navigate, and thus ease some unnecessary stress. To begin, they based the system off of one central metaphor. Since the hospital was originally developed to be part of a healing garden, the central metaphor they chose was nature. They divided areas into terrains, labeling them with easy and recognizable terms like “sun”, “cloud”, and “leaf”. On top of that, they used color and numbers to signify different spaces to make navigating this space even more inclusive.

The graphic language they used was also a system organized based off of one central element. The logo used for the hospital is a graphic of a child surrounded by family and caretakers. They took the child, family, and caretaker from the logo and used them throughout the hospital as recurring indexes to help even more with getting around easily. Using those characters as signage not only gives a visual cue to ease stress, they look so friendly that I’m sure it makes kids feel like it is less daunting to be in that environment.

Further building off of that graphic, designers used the organic shape the outline made as elements in the building, like the shape of windows in a hallway. They also developed other motifs like clouds and leaves. These motifs were used in patterns designed to mimic traditional african art with their coloring, line work, and scale changes.

The way finding system used everything it could to make the experience as easy to navigate as possible. It would be easy to divide a building like this up into strictly numbers, colors, or names, but Nelson Mandela’s hospital utilized all three. I feel like when designing the space they constantly looked for opportunities to limit confusion. A really significant lesson I learned from this lecture was having a solid base to start with and building off of that. The nature theme extending to terrains in the hospital was really taking advantage of a theme that was really important to begin with. It also gave way to motifs and patterns used throughout the hospital. I think that not only makes it a cohesive space, it probably made it easier for designers to execute.

I was the most impressed with this kind of building off of a central element with the logo for the hospital. I think most hospitals I have been to haven’t factored in their logo with any type of element in the hospital itself. These designers developed it into signage and in the actual structuring of windows. Taking full advantage of elements in place by building off of them really ensures a very cohesive way finding system. The overarching lessons I learned were to simply exploit all opportunities to incorporate designs choices that are already available and to limit confusion for the viewer by speaking in multiple visual languages (color, symbol, index, icon)