Based on prior research, it’s estimated that a patient or hospital visitor must go through at least seven steps in the wayfinding process to arrive at the final destination. The Center for Health Design cites wayfinding issues as an environmental stressor and a concerning topic in healthcare design.
Landscape architecture researcher at West Virginia University has a potential solution for this problem.
An associate professor at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Jiang utilized immersive virtual environments – digitally-created “worlds” that users are engrossed in – for a controlled experiment that asked participants to complete various wayfinding tasks.
All participants saw the same hospital layout and room arrangements. However, for one group, participants encountered large windows and nature views among the corridor walls.
In contrast, the control group saw solid walls without any daylight or natural views. Participants in the greenspace group used shorter time and walked less distance to complete wayfinding tasks.
In terms of spatial orientation and wayfinding, window views of nature and small gardens can effectively break down the tedious interiors of large hospital blocks.
They also revealed that participants’ mood states, particularly anger and confusion, were significantly relieved in the greenspace group.
The study also found that green spaces situated at key decision points, such as the main corridor or junction of departmental units, can serve as landmarks that positively attract attention, aid wayfinding, and improve the navigational experience.
Garden and plants also tend to have strong therapeutic effects on people. Such therapeutic effects can be explained from multiple perspectives: people’s color/hue preferences; nature and plants distract the people’s attentional fatigue, and human beings could have developed genetic preference of greenery from evolutionary perspectives.
Many hospitals across Europe have successfully integrated “hospital in a park” concepts. In the United States, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in California features patios and window nooks in every patient room, and most rooms have direct views of a large healing garden.
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