wayfinding in Healthcare Environments: Investigating wayfinding Behavior Under Emergency Conditions

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Master of Architecture, Department of of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Assistant Professor, Department of of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.


Complexity in contemporary cities and buildings- especially for newcomers- may affect man-environment relations regarding finding the right path to a destination. For many years, architects and urban designers have dealt with a big concern about wayfinding in outdoor and indoor environments. One may discuss wayfinding for a large network of paths associated solely with cities, but research has found buildings as a challenging context for people to find their ways. Romedi Passini and Paul Arthur (1992) developed theories on wayfinding to indoor environments. Through experimental studies, they found environmental and human attributes affecting wayfinding. Research has categorized the findings into classes as strategies extracted from environmental physical aspects used by people in appropriate situations. This study examines wayfinding in healthcare environments (hospital), which serves many people everyday. Having a wide range of healthcare services, hospitals should provide a diverse set of spaces connecting to each other. In addition, time plays an essential role. So, taking patients to the right destination, paths must work effectively. Looking through the researches on wayfinding and considering results in healthcare environments, we found a lack. Emergency conditions, which may change the  findings, were neglected in most researches. So, considering such stressful situations, we designed an experimental research in a hospital in Tehran, Iran. The research had 9 participants (4 men, 5 women) find 3 destinations. Recall that the survey accomplished in pandemic. We selected a hospital from 3 hospitals for its complexity, lots of users, and accessibility to the maps and documents. Participants were requested not to ask others for the address. They should have thought loudly about where they intent to go, why they took a path and which environmental attributes they recorded. To simulate emergency conditions, survey had time limits. The participants had chronometers and should have checked it along the paths. We engaged two persons recording participants’ behavior maps and thoughts. Through a systematic and unsystematic observation, six strategies were examined in all nodes and throughout the paths: straight path, avoiding vertical change, brightest path, wider path, signs, and plenty of probable decision making nodes. Analyses on participants’ wayfinding behavior showed three different interpretations on nodes where people chose strategies to take the paths: a) strategies failed to be ascribed, b) strategies not aligned with the previous findings, and c) strategies aligned with the previous findings. Contrary to the previous results, half of the participants did not take “straight and longer paths” in the potential nodes. The result confirmed people dislike changing floors. Research on how brightness affect wayfinding in hospitals should be repeated since there were no discrepancies on brightness in the paths. In line with previous results, participants’ behavior showed an intention to choose wider paths. They also frequently pointed to the sings- special architectural and functional fixed signs- to find their way. As for the last strategy, participants preferred to have less decision making nodes since conditions had limited time. We concluded that the strategies not aligned with previous findings rooted in the conditions were ignored. Designers could benefit from the findings.


Main Subjects

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