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Blood donation: sensory landscape.

Barney Miles

De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

The project is called ‘Blood Donation : Sensory Landscape’, and it sets out to modify and and rethink the built environment around blood donation facilities. This is done by changing the sensory landscape of the architecture and therefore the donor’s experience. The main concepts behind the project include phenomenological readings such as ‘Eyes of the Skin’ and ‘The Thinking Hand’ by Juhani Pallasmaa. Also the main inspiration was to use current donation facilities as an antithesis with the intent of removing the ‘hospital smell’ from the donation room.

Your project aims to address and rethink blood donation facilities in the UK, what inspired you to explore this topic?


As an openly gay man, I can’t give blood in this country without being celibate for three months and without going on a rant, it’s something that I do feel slightly discriminated for. I could lie on the form but why lie to do something morally good. Upon further research, I found out that only 3% of people that can give blood, actively do. This is worrying as there is always a shortage of blood and therefore more people need to and should be encouraged to give blood.


I went a visit to a facility and it was clear why some people would not want to give blood. The environment is horrible and it’s got the ‘hospital smell’ which creates a sense of unease and anxiety, which should not be the case when giving blood. With all this in mind it was from there that I based my project on the donor, the chair and the sensory experience and that’s how the project developed.

The scheme is based in Manchester was there a particular reason why you decided to locate your blood donation facility here?


Manchester was chosen for two particular reasons, one it was where I am originally from and therefore the city will always be significant to me. However the main reason is because of the reaction of the people and the blood donation workers after the Manchester Bombings in 2017. The event impacted a lot of people and many people wanted to give blood to those affected. The donation clinics had queues of people outside them for many days after the event and this did impact some people who didn’t know that they couldn’t give blood. This sense of community was for me an inspiration for the project as it made me think that a well designed donation clinic, that people would want to come to, would result in more blood for the community and the city of Manchester as a whole.

You utilise sensory design within your Blood Donation Facility how were these specifically implemented within the project?


So the donor’s journey through the building was key to this. Therefore the three stages of blood donation were considered and analysed in relation to the senses. The aim was to make the environment not seem like a typical medical environment - from the material of the handrail to the smell of the planting. Research by Roger Ulrich who has studied health care environments discusses how the importance of visual stimuli can impact a users experience. Therefore things such as views to greenery, courtyards and the sky were incorporated into the design. The main sensory design feature was to ensure that the space didn’t have the ‘hospital smell’ which is a mixture of sweat, bleach etc. This influenced the building to have smell absorbing materials and good ventilation to ensure the air was fresh and therefore the space would no be associated with the other medical environment, not just visually but also in terms of the other senses.


Your illustrative style is very unique is there anyone or anything in particular that has influenced you graphically?


My main influence is Atelier Bow Wow - their drawings are stunning and their use of simple line work and good line weights really influenced my style. I also added in shadows and hatches to show the materiality and the light of the project which differs from the cleanness of Atelier Bow wow. Plus, the drawing technique uses the irony that although they look almost clinical with a limited colour palette, upon a closer look into the minor details and annotations you can see how the project is not like typical medical environments.

What is your design process when producing your drawings, do you use any particular software?  


It’s simply, a very detailed Sketchup model as a base, then take the linework into AutoCAD, tidy it up and add the detailing. After that you add the textures, shadows, people and trees etc. in Illustrator and from there you can adjust line weights and keep it really simple (and also in vectors and not pixels). So nothing too fancy or over the top.


If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?


Do something outside of architecture when at university - I was the treasurer of DMU Salsa and it really helped me to take a break from my work, do something fun and stopped my project taking over every waking moment. You need to manage your time and release some endorphins every once in a while and you will enjoy your project and your uni experience a lot more.


Also, never do an all-nighter - sleep is important.

What are your future plans now you have finished your Masters of Architecture degree?


I’m having the summer off to go travelling around New Zealand where one of my best friend’s lives and working as an architect out there; and then I shall be starting back at the place I did my Part 1 placement year at in September.


Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?


To be honest, I need to update a website I did after I finished undergrad, but people can follow me on instagram @barney_miles and I will hopefully update my website soon.

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