Spatial orientation in unfamilar settings: Real-world wayfinding in two hospitals
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Background: People may find the encounter with a hospital both stressful and intimidating. Then, there is no consolidation if the site is unprepared for encounters with new visitors. Wayfinding difficulties are common for large public buildings. These difficulties are time consuming, costly, and stressful for visitors and institutions. A focus on evidence based design has elicited awareness of the usability of buildings. Hospitals aiming for patient oriented structures need to consider responses from the users. It is the responsibility of researchers that these responses are treated scientifically, while adding knowledge about wayfinding behavior and spatial representations. Based on initiatives from an explorative pilot study, this thesis focus on comparing wayfinding at two different hospitals, and investigation of individual wayfinding abilities. Results: Participants reached their destination faster at the hospital that was rated highest on coherence, legibility, mystery, complexity, and immediate appeal. Quality of wayfinding aids and corridor alignment affected environmental experience. The existence of two individual wayfinding strategies was supported through factor analysis. Although not strongly, sense of direction predicted wayfinding performance. Sense of direction proved to be stable, through retest and association with pointing accuracy and overview wayfinding strategy. Spatial anxiety was associated with sequential wayfinding strategy. Sketch-map representations were more related to individual spatial knowledge acquisition than building design. Conclusions: There are great areas of research on wayfinding ability that is still unexplored. However, the real-world field experiments have produced results that would not have been obtained through other designs. Post occupational evaluations report both wayfinding experience and spatial representations. Hospitals need to consider all aspects of the patient situation. Good wayfinding designs give more efficient workflow and more satisfied patients and visitors. Methods: Data was obtained from 64 student participants volunteering for a wayfinding experiment. Information on wayfinding measures was gathered in a real-world field experiment at two large regional hospitals. Wayfinding performance was obtained through a timed orientation task, followed by a pointing task. Questionnaires were administered at three stages of the orientation task. Finally, participants were required to draw a sketch-map of the traversed route.