Integrated Studio (2021)
Welcoming Experiences

Integrated Studio (2021) was an interdisciplinary undergraduate studio project in semester one of 2021. It involved a group of third year AUT design students from various disciplines—spatial design, industrial design, fashion design and communication design. This year's cohort worked collaboratively with AUT's Good Health Design and Waitematā DHB's Institute for Innovation and Improvement (i3) to reimagine what a better hospital welcoming experience could be for patients, their whānau and staff.

The Project.

This year the brief for Integrated Studio was to improve the welcoming experience. Waitematā DHB has been planning a new healthcare facility, Tōtara Haumaru, on the North Shore Hospital campus. The 4-storey building is likely to include operating theatres and related rooms, endoscopy procedure suite, and four surgical wards of approximately 30 beds each. This presented an opportunity for the students to explore different possibilities to improve the patient experience at the beginning of the healthcare journey. By working collaboratively with patients and staff they had an opportunity to use creative processes to better understand the needs of users and to challenge thinking around what the future of care might look and feel like, challenge current conventions and use design to advocate for those who are most vulnerable.

"It was amazing work. I’ve been on this journey with the students since the start, and the transition of what they were presenting earlier to what they presented today was absolutely phenomenal. As a healthcare professional and someone who works in a hospital setting it's great to dream of what the possibilities are through the lens of the students and through the lens of no budget. It’s about taking us out of our comfort zones. We usually think inside a square. So by broadening our horizons, demonstrating what’s possible it just gives us new scope and new ways of thinking. And it just brings us back to why we’re designing hospitals in the first place — what we’re here for."

— David Price, Director of Patient Experience

The Process.

The studio visited the Institute of Innovation and Improvement (i3) as part of their initial research, hearing from Robyn Whittaker (Clinical Director of Innovation at i3), Allanah Winitata-Kelly (Māori Patient and Whānau Experience Lead) and David Price (Director of Patient Experience) about Waitematā DHB and how the students could think differently about the way healthcare is provided in the hospital. The studio then went on a tour of the hospital campus, and had the opportunity to experience disability simulations run by Samantha Dalwood (Disability Advisor for Watiematā DHB) to gain empathy into how they could design solutions for better accessibility. Mid-way through the project, the studio talked to staff from a range of clinical and non-clinical backgrounds, and had two opportunities to present their initial design concepts to stakeholders at i3 and the hospital for feedback. At the end of the semester, the studio presented to key stakeholders at the hospital's Whenua Pupuke auditorium. It was a great way to wrap up the project, and for the students to showcase their amazing projects to staff.

"The student work was so inspirational and I think that they had a lot to teach our staff teams on, particularly on how to include two different worlds of perspectives. That around traditional healing and what can be elements of contemporary design, I think they did that wonderfully. I firmly believe in the concept of tuakana-teina, and that while I’m a staff member and employed in this world, I am always willing to put myself where students can teach me a number of different things. Just watching them grow and being so willing to grow in their mindsets is a learning that I will remember from this group. Their mindfulness of others and generosity of heart to give a thought others in need is what I’ll pinpoint as my favourite thing across all of the projects."

— Allanah Winiata-Kelly, Māori Patient and Whānau Experience Lead, WDHB

The Projects.

The studio approached this project with four solutions; a) a wayfinding hub system to streamline wayfinding around the hospital campus, b) an entrance transition space to the hospital, and c) two options for an internal atrium design that offers patients, visitors and staff a place to wait and relax. View each project in more detail below.

Wayfinding Hub
Amy Cherguit, Anita Parapunova, Claudia Rist + Michelle Sheng.

A hospital experience is often unpleasant. As a patient needing guidance or when visiting a sick family member, the first thing on your mind should be getting to your destination and injured loved ones; the last thing on your mind should be how to get there. The future of healthcare is exciting, from artificial intelligence to automated healthcare hubs. This project considers this from the start and asks how do we create the future of healthcare a feasible reality which can be implemented today?

This project proposes a multi-site hospital wayfinding system that provides personalised and customisable wayfinding for everyone, but particularly those living with disabilities, age and language barriers. We observed that North Shore Hospital’s current wayfinding accommodates able-bodied, English speaking users, depicted through their over-reliance on textual signage and verbal instructions.

Our proposal invites Hospital patients and visitors to begin their campus journey at the central Wayfinding Hub located at the hospital carpark entrance beside the public transport stops. Visitors will be drawn to the Wayfinding Hub with tactile paving, into an inviting open space. Organic forms take away from the cold, clinical feeling people often expect in healthcare institutions. Inside the hub are three interactive wayfinding screens that allows users to create their personalised wayfinding route. Users first select their language. Then they are guided through a range of preference options. For example, 'low vision', 'with stroller', 'stop at bathroom' or 'stop at cafe'. These selections are automatically saved for subsequently visits as the system builds and ongoing user profile. The screens generate an ‘ideal’ route, which can be sent to phones or can be printed out. Below each screen, there are two buttons — one for emergencies and one for assistance. Further help is also available from the volunteer stationed at the hub’s main help desk.

As well as the central Wayfinding Hub, we have designed smaller indoor kiosks and outdoor shelters as supporting wayfinding touchpoints, conveniently dispersed throughout the hospital. The kiosks and shelters also have wayfinding screens, if users lost on their way to their destination. By scanning an QR code on the screens, users can be redirected to their destination from wherever they are.

As a group where three out of four of our parents don’t speak English as their first language, the emphasis on inclusion is one so close to our hearts. We have worked to redesign wayfinding in a way that is inclusive and accessible for all types of patients and visitors. We believe that this system will allow people to feel supported and empowered to navigate themselves, and more positively perceive hospitals in general.

“It was definitely a new experience working with a lot of new people. It was hard at times since… often you don’t understand how they think and how they have their design processes.”

— Amy Cherguit, Spatial Design Student

“It was really interesting, out-there, different from what you’d usually experience in your majors. You get to meet new people and do design that is beyond the scope of what you’d usually imagine, and somehow, through the process you find your way back to your strengths again.”

— Michelle Sheng, Communication Design Student

“This was a chance to get insights from other areas of design that I may not even have thought about or considered in the past. I found it really interesting to see how different their design processes are and what I can learn.”

— Claudia Rist, Industrial Design Student

“I think it was so cool to work with other creatives and to see their creative process and how ours worked and how we collaborated. I think it was really fun. My biggest learning was seeing how communication design can help in projects like this…we found a really strong way to integrate communication into it and it was more fulfilling overall to go through that experience.”  

— Anita Parapunova, Communication Design Student

Te Waharoa Hauora.
Jordan Williams, Isabelle Merwood + Sonia Zhang.

Visiting hospital can be a time of great stress, trauma, and uncertainty for patients and their loved ones. Navigating the labyrinthine hospital campus can be challenging, especially with the emotional weight of one’s illness mitigating the experience further.

Hospital spaces seldom embrace narratives of personal wellbeing and healing – this is a missed opportunity to promote healthcare on individual and community levels. The psychological and spiritual journey of patients and whānau are essential to provide exceptional human-centered experiences.

Following a deep ethnographic immersion to better understand the needs of healthcare users, we have identified an opportunity to reframe how hospitals connect with, and support communities. Our conceptual proposal for a new building being constructed at the North Shore Hospital campus redesigns the outdoor-to-indoor transition at the front entrance of the proposed building. We believe the current stigma surrounding healthcare needs changing, so the emphasis of our design, Te Waharoa Hauora, is empowering an individuals’ intent to seek wellness.

“Te Waharoa Hauora” means “The Gateway to Wellness” and traverses three key areas – the garden, the gateway, and the entrance. The garden is informed by biophilic design principles where every aspect is an integration of nature and architecture. The garden is also influenced by Māori values such as Te Whare Tapa Whā, alongside other multi-cultural values to put this vision of healthcare into the perspective of preexisting perceptions that real people have about wellness. The garden spaces to the left and right of the gateway are contemporary, multicultural orchards consisting of plants such as citrus and flax, and open plan seating. This supports sensory engagement by the means of smell and touch, offering a calm outside of the hospital walls.

The gateway is the primary passageway to the front entrance. The curvilinear theme with organic geometry compassionately amplifies the strength in a patient’s independence as they embark on their healthcare journeys. The dominant use of yellow communicates a “beacon of care” approach to wellbeing. These elements are reflected in the canopy contours, as well as the mosaic tiling being a part of the wayfinding experience. The gateway seating incorporates an assortment of blue and purple flowers as a nod to the spiritual palette of Reiki Healing. The materiality and biophilic design integrated throughout the space brings gravity to the emotional experience of pursuing independent wellness.

People will arrive at the front entrance to the building. The exterior of the airlock consists of wooden contours that are positioned to accommodate privacy, as well as intuitive directory. The airlock space is open, providing the requisite space necessary for disability services and other facilities. A sculptural installation represents the congregation of patients, whānau, and staff as they come together before continuing on their own healthcare journeys. 

This proposal challenges those who design and facilitate healthcare spaces to better empathise with people who come together in the name of better health and wellness. Te Waharoa Hauora is a reimagined approach for how hospital environments might better support the growth of wellbeing in our communities.

“The highlight of integrated studio was the opportunity to present on the final day. It was a really long process full of blood, sweat and tears, but it was definitely good to have something that we were proud of, we thought was compelling, and we felt that related back to our… purpose really well.”

— Jordan Williams, Industrial Design Student

“I learned how to be in a group and how to have communicative skills for the real world. As designers, we’re so inclined to work independently, so it was nice to do that.”

Isabelle Merwood, Spatial Design Student

“I enjoyed trying to design in a different area. In communication design we are mainly designing for interfaces and posters and graphic design. Designing for a space is a whole new experience and was really interesting.”

— Sonia Zhang, Communication Design Student

Rongoā Garden.
Ella Thomas, Troy Davis, Joyce Yang + Jalaina Hitchen.

Through an immersive ethnographic research process at a North Shore Hospital main campus, we identified a disconnect between community and the hospital. We responded by reimagining the courtyard of the proposed Tōtara Haumaru building as an opportunity to offer a transformative welcoming experience, by bringing the two paradigms of healthcare and community together.

A goal was to highlight the importance of one's personal health journey and what health might mean to different people and to celebrate inclusivity for the diverse community of Aotearoa.

Site Analysis and research:  
Lake Pupuke was formed from a Tupua couple, the children of the Fire Gods. The couple had insulted Mahuika the Fire Goddess, Mahuika had their home ripped out by Mataoho, the god of earthquakes, which is where Lake Pupuke stands. The earth was then thrown offshore, which became Rangitoto.  Our research acknowledged the diversity of Auckland’s community. Consequently, the inclusion of other models of healthcare was paramount. By coalescing themes across traditional healthcare models from around the pacific, we found Touch, Nature, Water, and Whānau were mostly universal concepts. 

Our Concept
Rongoā Garden serves as a community hub offering space for both public and private interactions where families can heal, relax and recuperate. Through this concept we identified four modes of healing:
Touch: Spaces encourage intimacy and privacy. Visitors and patients can express care through physical touch.
Water: A small central pond provides an anchor for wayfinding; the flow of water over basalt rocks below the elevated deck pays homage to Takapuna.
Nature: Incorporating Rongoā Rakau, Rongoā Garden represents a Māori health journey. whilst complimenting other practices such as shin-rin yoku (Japanese forest bathing).
Whānau: The design encourages people to wander and sit within the garden as a place to unwind.

Within the space there is a zone of transition from public to private. Due to the restricted staff access toward the far end, a cul-de-sac is incorporated. This directs visitors from the entrance toward the staff area, before looping back to exit from where they entered. Foliage has been strategically placed to encourage privacy for patients occupying ground level wards to obscure windows from the public gaze yet allowing connections to nature for those in care.

Topography and Elevation: The subtle increase of elevation invites users to rise into the bush past forms inspired by Rangitoto’s lava flows.

Water feature: Representing Takapuna and the springs, this feature encourages interaction between users as a talking point, and site of reflection.

Lighting: During the evenings the garden is gently lit by warmer tones, creating a nostalgic outdoor effect within the space.  

Seating: With thoughtful consideration to accessibility and inclusivity for the diverse community, various forms of seating are scattered among the foliage, some public and others more private. The seating at the entrance of the space is integrated into the garden beds and asks users to be more informal with their interactions. The seating towards the rear of the garden is more private and formalised, asking users to acknowledge each other's personal space.

“Being able to work on a live brief and actually collaborating with a DHB was really insightful. And being able to work on a project that would actually do good for the community.”

— Jalaina Hitchen, Fashion Design Student

“It was definitely a challenge – both working in a discipline, working with people that have different styles and have been taught differently. And especially…the idea that we did, I haven’t done something so cultural based, but I think it was really good because it did challenge me which makes it more rewarding in the end.”

— Ella Thomas, Comunication Design Student

“It’s a good experience to see how you can design from a new lens. Also learning about how other disciplines operate, as well as my own. Because you don’t really know much about other disciplines unless you work with them directly, so that’s how you would work with them in the real world too.”

Joyce Wang, Spatial Design Student

“Group work can be stressful. But I think what happened is…we got really close and became pretty good friends, and I think there was an element of being really proud of the work we did in the end.”

Troy Davis, Industrial Design Student

Inside the Tōtara.
Amy Rae Waldburger, Belinda Tran, Findlay Campbell + Sinéad McKeefry.

Inside the Tōtara’ honours the Tōtora tree that was cut down to make space for this new building. This species of tree represents everything that roots us, anchors us, identifies us and locates us in the Māori world. Inspired by nature and play, our solution offers people a sense of escapism and utopia; the ability to relax in what is otherwise a stressful environment. This courtyard space is reminiscent of a treetop experience through organic, abstract forms and the use natural materials. A homage to the tōtara tree is visualised through minimalistic sculptural centrepiece. It serves as the heart of the space and acknowledges that we are growing something new in its place. Each of the four elements to this centrepiece represent different stages of a tree’s growth over time. The walls and floor are illustrated with projected interactive designs enhancing the spaces’ ability to design for the future and adapt to change.

The central walls and floor spaces become canvases for projected illustrations that breathe life into the space. The illustrations can be changed to reflect the day, season or era, allowing the space to grow and develop with the people and community surrounding it. Patients and whānau are encouraged to use a tablet to draw or write contributions that will be projected into the space. This interactivity creates connectivity amongst patients that can reduce stress and anxiety, provide something to focus on and serve as a medium for people to express their feelings. The wall creates an opportunity for contribution to the space, it acts as a collective thought area, it enhances people’s sense of belonging and grows with the community.

‘Inside the Tōtara’ provides an experiential escape with a new approach of connecting nature with play in a hospital environment. Featuring:

  • A courtyard for patients to wander, with an archway mimicking overhanging tree branches.
  • Seating on either side of the entrance that opens into a lounge and relaxation area on one side and a forest themed family area for young children to play and relax on the other.
  • Above is a patient lounge and viewing platform that can be accessed via the lifts. This looks out over the entire courtyard that is sheltered by several leaf-like structures.
  • Seating around the Tōtara sculpture with stations for the tablets that people can use to interact with the projected wall illustrations.
  • The shelter mimics the shape of clouds at different levels in the sky. These ‘clouds’ are held up by a series of poles that enhance the whimsical and playful feeling of a tree top forest.  

“I loved my overall experience, I’m really familiar with the healthcare system myself…so it’s been really amazing for me to see how my journey has been and how I can use my experiences to change it for other patients and take what I’ve learnt from going through the healthcare system myself.”

Amy Rae Waldburger, Communication Design Student

“Honestly it’s just opened my eyes to what’s possible. I’m used to working on projects in industrial design so just expanding what you actually can contribute to as a designer and not putting yourself into a box. I was really pleased to try something new.”

— Findlay Campbell, Industrial Design Student

“It was hard as a communication designer working on a project that was so much more physical than what we’re used to. But I think it will really be beneficial when we go into the real world, working with a range of projects that aren’t as flat as communication design and working with people who aren’t just communication designers.”

— Sinéad McKeefry, Communication Design Student

“I feel like I learned a lot more about myself, and I was able to work with people from other disciplines. I feel like in general in spatial design I wasn’t able to work in a group as much, so to be able to have this experience was really great.”

— Belinda Tran, Spatial Design Student

"It was absolutely fantastic. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see some amazing designs.  We are not designers and we tend to see design work through the lens of our own roles. So it’s a fabulous opportunity to have people come in who have that expertise. I think that we often constrain ourselves by talking about lack of money, but even if we can’t do all of it, we could take some elements of the designs and make these happen."

— Samantha Dalwood, Disability Advisor, Waitematā DHB

The Team


Amy Cherguit (Spatial Design)
Anita Parapunova (Communication Design)
Claudia Rist (Industrial Design)
Michelle Sheng (Communication Design)

Ponamu Creative

Jordan Williams (Industrial Design)
Isabelle Merwood (Spatial Design)
Sonia Zhang (Communication Design)

Studio Rongoā

Ella Thomas (Communication Design)
Troy Davis (Industrial Design)
Joyce Yang (Spatial Design)
Jalaina Hitchen (Fashion Design)

Yellow Submarines

Amy Rae Waldburger (Communication Design)
Belinda Tran (Spatial Design)
Findlay Campbell (Industrial Design)
Sinéad McKeefry (Communication Design)

Good Health Design

Stephen Reay (Lecturer)
Cassie Khoo (Lecturer)

With a special thanks to...

Robyn Whittaker (i3, Clinical Director of Innovation)
Allanah Winiata-Kelly
(Māori Patient and Whānau Experience Lead, WDHB)
David Price
(Director of Patient Experience, WDHB)
Karen Fielding
(i3, Health Leadership)
Imogen Evans
(Healthcare Design Fellow)
Samantha Dalwood (Disability Advisor, WDHB)
Jo Egan (EM SMO, Clinical Lead People & Culture)
Dean Croft (i3, WDHB)
Ravina Patel (Patient Experience Team)
Genevieve Kabuya (Patient Experience Team)
Sue Hedges (Deputy Head of School, AUT)
David Coventon (Senior Lecturer, AUT)

A collaboration between...