Signage Design for (Re)Occupied Buildings: The case of study of Royal College of Art of University Coimbra



Signage and Wayfinding Design are key components of the city’s social infrastructure. Although signage is not the only spatial orientation resource — quite the contrary —, its function in the contemporary built environment is vital to compensate the buildings' wayfinding weaknesses. A typical example of this is the buildings that, due to changes in their functions or poorly designed rehabilitation works, lost their native wayfinding design. The Real Colégio das Artes (trans. Royal College of Arts) of University of Coimbra, is a typical case in the point. The college built by Companhia de Jesus, in 1569, on the centre of Coimbra’s Alta, over the time, endured several distinct functions and rehabilitation interventions that created the actual confusion. Even though it was built initially to be a Jesuit College, it also performed the functions of High School, Military Headquarters during the Peninsular War, University Teaching Hospital and National Museum. Furthermore, the building was one of the few buildings that survived Alta’s demolition towards the creation of the new university campus, during the first half of the twentieth century. After the construction of the new University of Coimbra Teaching Hospital, in 1986, the building returned to its role of University College accommodating several faculties of the University of Coimbra. Today, the college is home of the Departments of Architecture and Biochemistry, of some of the administrative services and research unities of the University of Coimbra, and of the unity of postgraduate studies in Contemporary Art Colégio das Artes. The college is also classified by UNESCO such as a world heritage site.
Nowadays, the building presents a confuse and "difficult to understand" logic. For instance, the classrooms are scattered by the building without a sequence. Moreover, it does not exist a direct door to enter some classrooms. We need to go through corridors surrounded by professors’ offices and storerooms. This created an atypical organisational system whereby, most of the times, the space identification is made using improvised signage (e.g. A4 paper sheets). To solve this problem, we developed a modular, open-ended and dynamic signage system that enables: (1) to distinguish and to unify the entities held by the building; (2) to include/exclude entities easily without the system losing its integrity; (3) to change the name and sequence of the classrooms; and (4) to include temporary signage. Apart from that, the system considers a set of proposes and techniques to respect the college historical and aesthetical legacy. In this paper, we present the outcomes and the process behind their development.


modular graphic design; signage design; wayfinding design.


signage design; wayfinding design;


9th Typography Meeting, November 2018

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