At the beginning of 2014 ID/Lab opened an exciting new chapter in its history: our first project in Europe. After working in NZ, and the opening of a studio in Toronto, Canada in 2011, Europe is the next stepping stone to wayfinding world domination…… AZ Groeninge* is a large teaching hospital, in the southern Belgian city of Kortrijk. The hospital is the result of a merger of four hospitals –one of which dates back to 1211!
The first part of the new hospital building opened in 2010, and the next phase will open in 2016. With 117,422 m2 and 1050 beds it will then become the second largest hospital in Belgium.
AZ Groeninge was the first of a wave of new hospitals in Belgium, and is used as an example for the projects following; in architecture, treatment methods and patient-friendliness. It was the latter that made AZG question the quality of their present wayfinding system. They knew that it was not working as well as it should (through the complaints they got on a regular basis), but they could not really figure out what to change.
A chance meeting at a Health & Design conference in Toronto introduced Hilde Vermolen, the Director of the Belgium architect firm OSAR, to the ideas of ID/Lab. Add to this the fact that three of the Melbourne ID/Lab staff speak Dutch, and a connection was created.
As Jo Dendauw, the Director of Facilities at AZG says: “....We found that in Belgium signage companies sell consultancy services but they are not able to grapple the real thinking that goes behind developing a wayfinding strategy. Their solutions are a copy / paste approach from other hospitals, primarily focused on the sale of signs and panels, rather than as a core solution that solves their clients’ problems.”
Hilde, the lead architect, adds to this: “ID/Lab’s focus on the discovery of processes followed by the users of the hospital, was central in understanding what needed to happen with wayfinding. Their experience, and understanding of how hospitals work has also assisted us as architects, and the hospital itself, to develop clearer, more defined processes for how we interact with hospital clients and visitors. We have made considerable changes to our architectural design outcomes based on the input from ID/Lab.”