A new collaborative project from University of Edinburgh, Artlink and the Pentland Ward of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital considers the role of colour within hospital environments to aid wayfinding and provide more varied, characterful spaces for patients, relatives and nursing staff.

It was instigated and led by Professor Fiona McLachlan, Professor of Architectural Practice at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). ECA students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, volunteered to be part of the live project. Undergraduates on the new elective course ‘On Colour in Architecture’ were particularly encouraged to take part.

As part of the design development, specific points in the ward had been identified as disorientating. A laser cutter was used to make cardboard stencils for painting, which were then strategically placed in the ward at key junctions to lead round corners.

The Colour Project ESALA Edinburgh Hospital Artlink ECA
Fiona McLachlan
Wayfinding for a dementia ward

“Architecture students were able to take part in the Live Project to paint the colour installation in the ward. For the students, it provided first-hand experience and the opportunity to develop new skills”

Professor Fiona McLachlan, Professor of Architectural Practice

The students produced large sample panels using rollers and test pots, then visited the ward so that they could understand the existing situation, meet the patients, and pin the panels at the appropriate locations. These were left in place for around two weeks to monitor how the colours changed throughout the day and in different weather conditions.

“The aim was to demonstrate how a very subtle shift in light reflectance would reveal the pattern when the light hits the wall. Small gold squares are dotted in a random pattern over the ceiling of the living area. These may or may not be noticed by all users, but they aim to counter the institutional feel of these spaces" said Fiona.

The Colour Project ESALA Edinburgh Hospital Artlink ECA
Fiona McLachlan
Wayfinding for a dementia ward
The Colour Project ESALA Edinburgh Hospital Artlink ECA
Fiona McLachlan
Wayfinding for a dementia ward

The project, which was funded by a University of Edinburgh Innovation Initiative Grant, aims to enhance the everyday lives of those affected by dementia, their relatives and nursing staff. The Innovation Initiative Grant is made possible thanks to the generosity of graduates and friends of the University through their donations to the Edinburgh Fund.

A public exhibition of the project will be open Friday 1 June, 10:00am - 4:00pm at the ESALA Projects Office, Minto House at 20 Chambers Street, EH1 1JZ.


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