Wayfinding in the Streets of Venice

Wayfinding in the Streets of Venice

The SBS Environmental Graphic Design (EGD) Studio taught me about the importance of wayfinding. The most significant reason way finding solutions are necessary in buildings such as hospitals and airports is to reduce stress. In high stress situations, such as running across the airport for your plane that departs in 4 minutes, the very last thing you want to do is waste time confused on which direction your gate is. However, there are times in life where simply getting lost can be one of the best things that can happen to you.

Last semester, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Venice for 13 weeks. I am sure you have heard that it is extremely difficult to navigate around this 118 island landform. Luckily, there are maps that are really clear like this….

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Okay. Maybe not so clear. But don’t worry because there are really helpful signs that look like this…

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The truth is there is no real way to find your way around Venice other than through exploration, observation, and repetition.  It really only takes a couple of weeks to memorize the maze-like foot paths to your regular destinations, but I am not sure anyone ever knows their way through every one of the 3000 calli(alleys). But, there is something wonderful about this, about rarely knowing where you are, or how you can get to where you are supposed to be going. It forces you to look up, look around, and appreciate where you are, rather than straight lining it for your office door while looking down at your iphone – answering emails and texts, checking Facebook, and tweeting – like most of us do here in the States.

In my last days there, I was still discovering new, beautiful spaces. I was still entering alleyways I had never entered before, and wondering if I would ever enter the same one again. Thankfully, I had my camera attached to my hand at all times so I could capture the moment in case the answer was “No.”

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After residing in this amazing city for more than three months, here is my advice to anyone who is lucky enough to visit it in the future:

  1. Give yourself a lot of time to get somewhere.
  2. Ditch the map – Like I said getting lost is the best part
  3. If you NEED to get somewhere, never ask a local. 100% of the time they will say “Sempre Dritto!” (Always Straight!)

by: Marcy Wheeler, Architecture Student, University of Virgina

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