On my first day in Auckland, I ran from Central city all the way down to Onehunga weaving through future favourite spots including Mt. Eden and down by Tamaki drive. It turned out lot more complex of a route than I initially intended or anticipated, with a total of more than (an accidental) fifteen miles, but I emerged with both a sense of accomplishment, navigation of the city, and potential areas I wanted to explore more.
This first long run of Auckland can be used as a direct metaphor for my time here at the lab. What was initiated with a fear of the unknown, fear of the struggles of working in the hospital and the unforeseen obstacles quickly turned into an adventure I will never forget. Tasked with gaining a better understanding of the perception of the lab from outside stakeholders as well as a better sense of the opportunities for design-led innovation in the ADHB and healthcare in general, I had absolutely no clue what I would find, or if I would even enjoy the discovery process.
Before the project had started, I only had rote knowledge and a general sense (even general sense may be too generous) of what the lab actually was. Just as my mental map of the city developed and bloomed in detail during my run, my understanding of the purpose, function, and general positioning of the lab began to colour in as well. The further I ran, the more interviews I did, the more time I spent in the lab, the more confident I became that the process would not be futile, and could begin to push down around the boundaries of the shape of the city and my understanding of the lab.
Research aside, my time in the DHW lab has been invaluable. The space and environment that Justin and Steven have worked tirelessly to create is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and offers unprecedented respite from the typical hospital environment. Physically beautiful, the lab is also a hub of exuberant energy and excitement because of the people within.
My desk is my own view from the top of Mt. Eden-- from the crate I use to make my desk taller, I can look down literally on Eden herself, slaving away at Wayfinding, while still finding the time to keep me up to date on the next indie brunch spot or join me to fuel my newfound addiction to long blacks. I have Byron, the gangster gentleman, to my right, who while juggling two jobs and his masters will still crack up whenever I look for comic relief and sends over rap music from the decades to keep me musically well educated. Further in the distance is hipster row of Josh and Nick-- who regularly wear matching outfits and enjoy scratching their chins while offering their unique opinions of the world. Nick in particular helped formulate my annoyingly pretentious coffee selection in Auckland as well as a comparison of burger places in both the states and auckland. A short jump away from hipster row is the corner of maturity, housing Anushka, who is actually responsible for the lab staying up and running, planning events, and making sure we get there, with perky personality complemented by a don’t-take-s**t that reminds me of my best friends back home in LA. Ivana also joins Anushka in the corner of responsibility, cooking up delicious treats and ways to encourage patient interaction and feedback. In direct line with the basketball hoop on the wall is arguably the go-to man of the lab, Reid. It is no coincidence that you can see him from any spot inside, as his cool attitude, thoughtfulness, and hard-working attitude serves as a daily reminder of what we are trying to do here. The other factor being a straight shot to the basketball hoop next to hipster row, for the occasional mid-afternoon shoot around, where the creatives assess their coordination skills to a varying degree of success.
It would be remiss not to mention the others working in the lab, on more of the North Shore side of the room, on equally important work prototyping and designing. The work done by students like Antonio has blown me away in terms of quality and his maturity handling exploratory work with an attitude of attack and personal drive. Olivia offers an example of how passion and curiosity is a beautiful contagion within the workplace. You would be lacking a full description if you could not also mention the beautiful illustration work done by Emma and the newbie Cassie blowing everyone away with her work ethic and skill. One of the coastal residents is Mal, who tirelessly works on finding support and driving projects forwards in incredible increments.
Finally, Steve and Justin, the sky towers of the view. These two band leaders, Steve literally so, cannot help but let their love and hope for the lab shine through their realism, internal battles of working in a large organisation, and working enough for a whole team alone. Without their full trust that I would not botch up these interviews, that I would acclimate to a new environment, and that my research would prove to be worth their gamble, there is no chance I would have had such a fulfilling experience.
These people, these little neighbourhoods of the lab, welcomed me from the instant I stepped in the door, and have become familiar havens during my journey. It is possible that I could have done the dry research itself without them, but it is impossible to even begin to imagine that I would have enjoyed it. The people in this lab, so driven to make their mark and change the complex experience of healthcare have defined my time in the DHW and are the main reason I want to return.
Just as at the end of long run on that first day, I am exhausted: I’ve seen almost too much to mentally digest. It will be good to take a step back and be able to fully appreciate my experience, but I know it won’t be long before I miss the place and people terribly.
Thank you so much for giving me the chance to be here and experience the enigmatic of the lab and people within-- I will not forget it.
Don’t be too gutted-- I’ll be back!