DZNE (German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases) is the only research institute in Germany dedicated to dementia and all its facets. The task for büro uebele visuelle kommunikation was to create an overall atmosphere, to develop the identity of the place alongside planning a wayfinding system.
Since the building contains clean rooms, the interior design is mainly colored in monochromatic white. To maintain a friendly working environment, büro uebele visuelle kommunikation was asked to harmonize the space partly with color.
When suffering from Alzheimer’s, the ability people retain longest is their color recall. Color and writing not only help building users find their way about, they also communicate the research that’s undertaken here.
For the design of the wayfinding system, the designers used the ancient image of human encounter with color: giant brushstrokes on the wall. Furthermore the colored brushtrokes were used to code the different areas as the building volume is split into three individual buildings with several departments.
One of the biggest challenges was to enlarge and transpose the original brushstrokes by the artist Harald F. Müller. The hand-drawn originals in their characteristic style, painted with highly pigmented colors, were not enlarged but freely interpreted and airbrushed by hand. This way the final outcome was closest to the original expression.
The original images used as templates were provided by the artist Harald F. Müller. To reach the final outcome, the team experimented with various techniques for more than a year. Eventually there were seven different layers of color sprayed with an airbrush for each brushstroke, 400 times their original size.
The giant brushstrokes, some more than 40 meters high, are contrasting the hand-drawn signage in original size. Handwriting is one of the first things to change for people with Alzheimer’s. Therefore, more than a thousand words have been hand-drawn onto the walls. The wayfinding system with all its department codes, 200 arrows, pictograms and room labels was literally written on the walls—about 10,000 words and one month of work.
The whole design process took büro uebele visuelle kommunikation over three years, demanding close coordination with the user in preliminary meetings. The design firm's design process is organized in gradual phases and there are many professionals involved such as specialist planners, structural engineers, engineers, architects, building authorities, lighting designers, landscape designers, the user and the client. Furthermore the design team consults representatives of special social groups, e.g., representatives of disabled people.
In the end, the handlettering counters the disease and how it robs people of their unique expressiveness with a positively life-affirming gesture, giving the building a distinctive and personal touch.
Carolin Himmel (project manager), Andreas Uebele
Wulf Architekten (architect), Eicher Werkstätten, Harald F Müller (template brushstrokes), Andreas Steinbrecher (handwriting)
"Wayfinding without words! The jury was struck by the simplicity and difficulty of obtaining something so minimal and restrained. The bold and expressive solution, based on the needs of the building’s users, makes this system pure and meaningful to users."
"The design being led by research — the reasons for handwriting and color — is incredibly thoughtful. I appreciate that the installation method was hand-done as well. Overall, a very evocative and careful solution."
"Patient focused. Amazing use of bold color with true purpose: to help guide visitors and remember."