When Annie Goose of Ulukhaktok heard the new Stanton Hospital needed community representatives to advise them on the design, she was quick to put up her hand.

The reps helped select culturally responsive themes and inclusive design elements for the hospital, which is set to open at the end of next May.

“Being a hospital that services different parts of the region … we hope it will meet every level of need there is in individuals that go to medical health care: to feel at home, to feel connected to the land and the environment that they’re coming from, and to have their spirit nurtured,” said Goose.

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“It’s all-inclusive, in the decisions that we came to together, to try to meet the needs of people in the signage and colours.”

The hospital’s six floors begin with red barrenlands at level zero, then work up through the aurora, forests and rivers, lakes, mountains, and arctic, in varying shades of blues, greens, and browns. Those themes are represented in wayfinding patterns on the floors and walls.

“As we know, many of our regional people are Indigenous people. Sometimes many of them are unilingual,” said Goose.

“Some of us, when we go south, even though we’re speaking both languages – English and our traditional language – sometimes it’s difficult to look for signs in hospitals. It’s a stress on top of the health issue that we’re dealing with.”

Macy Koochek, senior interior designer for the project, said wayfinding elements like colours and graphic patterns ease navigation and highlight specific areas like nursing stations and elevators, reducing reliance on written signage.

Koochek explained the community representatives met to vet designs twice. She cited the mental health floor as an example of their input: a proposed floor design representing rivers and forests was flagged as being too busy and overstimulating, and consequently changed.

Allan Francis, the design lead for the project, said: “[The redevelopment team] quite carefully selected members from various communities so we could get a fairly broad range of experience and perspective.”

Working with the group, he added, was “one of the best parts of this whole process.”

“The new facility is going to be a very beautiful place,” Goose said, highlighting the therapeutic garden as one of her favourite areas, which she explained will cater to spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs.

“Every individual, no matter what level of need we might have, we all want to feel respected and given the service we need and we’re looking for,” she said.

Goose hasn’t toured the under-construction hospital to see how the design implementation is coming along, but said she’s hoping the group will be invited to the grand opening.