Students at ease with cross-sector approach

The structure of a hospital is often compared to that of a city because of its traffic flows (people) and logistics (delivery of food and materials). The City of Mechelen in Belgium is currently developing a new hospital: the Sint-Maarten Ziekenhuis merges three locations into one. The biggest challenge is dealing with an increased number of visitors.

Most of the times the citizens, or end-users, are only involved in the final phase of creating new infrastructure and buildings. In this case, students Interior Design, Nursing and Communications (ICT) were invited to design the reception area for the new hospital together. The main objective was to design the area from the visitors’ point of view (evidence based design) and make them feel comfortable with regard to privacy and navigation from parking to the doctors room. Experience and research methods from different study fields resulted in an overarching vision on functionality, such as the clarity of the sign posts, that would have been missed otherwise.

Evidence based design is a relatively new field of study which borrows terminology and ideas from several disciplines including Architecture and Behavioural Economics. Interestingly, the teachers in Mechelen struggled more with this cross-sector approach than the students did. For them, a mindset of adjusting knowledge to other disciplines only increased their motivation and was of great benefit to their overall engagement with the project.