The mood of the patient is in the very foreground. There is often a serious medical reason for transferring someone for a radiological examination. Patients are aware of this, with the result that visitors to a radiology practice are often to be found in an apprehensive state of mind, which can be further heightened by the feeling of uncertainty engendered by an array of technical instruments, the anonymity of the institution and its labyrinthine premises. The interior of the radiology practice Wittlinger Hahn Stern is designed to address the patient’s mood and situation in a highly sensitive way. The waiting rooms convey a sense of security, the orientation system is designed to make finding your way around easy and the technological apparatus remains hidden to a fairly large extent. All this serves to endow the patient with a greater sense of security and he begins to feel that he has come to the right place.
The layout of the practice is organised around the patients’ waiting area, which is located in the very centre. The individual functional areas - nuclear medicine, MRI and CRI, x-ray, mammography and ultrasound - are grouped around it. This clearly structured layout makes a labyrinthine system of corridors obsolete. At the same time, distances between the treatment rooms and waiting area are so small that a loudspeaker system is not required, making communication direct and personal, rather than anonymous.
The practice is accessed from an entrance area that tapers away towards the main waiting area. From the entrance area, patients have an unobstructed view of the main waiting room, thus giving arriving patients a means of initial orientation. The light blue ceiling serves as an additional means of orientation. It extends from the entrance area through to all public areas. In the large waiting room, it merges into the opposite wall via a cavetto, thereby making this area appear both inviting and contained. The reception, the organisational epicentre of every practice, is also the first point of contact and essential to building up a relationship of trust with the patient. The two reception areas are contained in partially enclosed units to the left and right of the entrance area and positively emanate discretion. Two reception stations for initial patient registration are located at a large counter, which is divided through the middle by an upholstered wall element. This separates the reception stations in both a visual and acoustic sense, while they are also far enough away from the waiting area to ensure that the admissions procedure remains both discrete and personal.
Opposite this is another, somewhat more enclosed room with seating, which is designed for more prolonged or sensitive admissions procedures. From the reception area, the space tapers away towards the central waiting area. The latter is characterised by four symmetrical columns that merge with the ceiling via a concave cavetto. The room is confined by three freestanding walls, the ends of which become exits that open towards the functional areas surrounding it. The walls also serve to screen the corridor that runs right around this core area. In this way, those waiting are not disturbed by the bustle of activity outside the waiting area and staff and doctors can move around between the different functional areas unobserved. The side walls of the waiting area are upholstered from floor to ceiling and curve into the room at their upper ends, thereby positively enclosing those waiting and giving them a feeling of protection and security. The upholstered walls are continuously perforated. This ensures that the room retains a quiet acoustic even when the practice gets very busy, as is often the case in radiology practices.
Waiting patients can choose between a row of seating along one of the two side walls or a ring encircling each of the four columns. Through their own choice of seating position, patients decide how much public exposure they desire. The more extrovert of seating positions are those on the seating rings around the columns, which give you a panorama of the entire room. The two long rows along the side walls afford you a more secluded position, away from the action. Since no natural light falls in the windowless waiting area, the freestanding walls that back on the reception area have a dual function as a light source. They are backlit and display a black and white image of clouds. This motif extends an invitation to meditate on the endless expanse of sky and is also a powerful symbol of hope. Moreover, the black and white colour design calls an archetypal x-ray image to mind. And although the typical blue of the sky is missing from the image, it remains present in the room because of the colouring of the ceiling. The colour concept supports the different functions of the individual areas. The ceiling in the entrance and waiting areas is executed in blue-grey. This colour creates associations with a medical environment and is both factual and precise; an effect that is further underscored by the long slits of lighting carved into the ceiling. The combination of ceiling colour, shell limestone floor, wooden surfaces and the light beige leather of the seat and wall coverings in the waiting areas establishes a calm and gentle mood.
The corridor encircling the outside of the main waiting room is dominated by a powerful, friendly orange. In conscious contrast to the waiting room situation, this striking colour stands for lively activity and simplifies patient orientation. The treatment rooms in the individual functional areas are each executed in their own delicate colour tone, so that individual departments are clearly differentiated from one another. A separate waiting area is available to private patients. This is designed using the same materials as the main waiting room. The floor and ceiling guidance creates a connection with the reception area. Because of its position against the building’s outside wall, daylight can enter this room and this underscores the special status of those waiting here. Three consulting rooms are located behind the séparée for private patients. To signalise the open attitude of the doctors towards the patients, each one has a glass façade onto the corridor, which can be darkened if required.