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Establishment of standards for constructing a pedestrian wayfinding system considering the public interest with regard to large complex facilities

Sin-Hae Lee·Jin-Hak Lee


As the functions of a city become more complex and varied, the activities of its citizens are also growing more and more diverse. Due to their diversified and widening activities, there is an increasing need for efficient transportation. Therefore, facilities that minimize movement and maximize activities are emerging one after another. In the case of Seoul, large facilities started to spring up with the Lotte World in Jamsil at the end of 1980s. Between the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s, facilities such as Migliore, the COEX, and the Central City were built. The iPark Mall, Bitplex, the Times Square came in the late 2000s, and after 2010 the Lotte Mall of Kimpo airport, the IFC mall of Yeouido, and the second Lotte World Mall. By 2018, seven more large-scale complex projects will be underway in the Seoul metropolitan area.

These large complex facilities are directly or indirectly connected to subway stations. Approximately 180,000 passengers commute daily at Jamsil station, 120,000 at Samsung station, and 170,000 at the Express Bus Terminal station. These are considered assembly areas of a “floating population.”

However, such big facilities are designed mainly for commercial purposes to create a “chain reaction of shopping” by their complex routes, causing serious inconvenience to pedestrians when moving in such complicated mazes. This is also reflected in the survey results of this study, where the respondents selected the reasons for their incommodiousness as “difficult to navigate” and “poor signage”. Moreover, commercial facilities poorly prioritize public elements, such as subway stations, restrooms, vertical elevated facilities (stairs, elevators, escalators, and so on), which are frequently used. As a result, problems arise, such as low visibility or non-distinctive features of the signage, as well as displays limited in viewing distances. Therefore, it is necessary to establish standards for “what guiding elements are essential” and “how to effectively guide” in large complex facilities.


This study limits its scope of pedestrian wayfinding standards to large-scale complex facilities. First, in order to examine the criteria for large-scale facilities, we comprehensively scrutinized the following standards: the “Distribution Industry Development Act,” the “Scope of Target Business to Traffic Impact Assessment,” under the Urban Traffic Improvement Promotion Act, and the “Seoul City Criteria for Deliberation on Buildings.” We restricted the facilities’ scope to a total floor area of over 0.1 million , because there were too many target facilities assessable for this study according to the “Distribution Industry Development Act” with a standard of 3,000 . Also, the standard in the “Scope of Business Target to Traffic Impact Assessment” for a large facility selection was too complex.

Based on this standard, there are 23 sales facilities in Seoul with a total floor area of over 0.1 million : two culture and assembly facilities, two transportation facilities, four medical facilities, and three accommodation facilities. To improve and suggest effective wayfinding, it is at least necessary to install such systems in large-scale complex facilities with an over-0.1 million total ground floor as delineated in the “Seoul City Criteria for Deliberation on Buildings.”

In addition, facilities with pedestrian wayfinding system requirements can be categorized as follows: either a facility of both public and private spaces combined or a facility of combined multiple public spaces. In case of private facilities, a wayfinding system requirement cannot be coerced, since they may serve unique purposes. Therefore, a combined facility of multiple private spaces was recommended for wayfinding in lieu of requirements.


In BART, the Californian railway system, related laws and policies are first examined to determine pedestrian wayfinding elements. Similarly, in this study, we examined the related laws of Korea, such as the “Building Act,” the “Rules on the Standards of Fire Safety and Evacuation of Buildings” under the Enforcement Decree of the Building Act, and the “Special Act on Management of Disasters in Super High-Rise Buildings and Complex Buildings with Underground Connections.” These laws denote particular public facilities requiring guidance for disaster management, such as staircases, elevators, and emergency exits.

Additionally, a survey conducted in this study showed that actual large complex facility users regard the important elements among main public facilities to be the subway connection passages, toilets, elevators, escalators, and emergency exits. Therefore, components related to safety and emergency evacuations are required in a wayfinding system, such as a vertical movement facility.


Six wayfinding principles for pedestrians are suggested by reviewing the BART railway system, a library signage design program, and the guideline for the production, installation, and management of road signs under the Road Act.

Principle One. The relevant laws and regulations must be met to create a wayfinding system. In other words, the safety, mobility, and convenience of pedestrians are highly influential and essential protective factors for high-demand, large-scale facilities that hold a large floating population .

Principle Two. The wayfinding system must be installed in a way to suit a given building. If wayfinding systems are all applied identically to shopping malls, subway stations, and libraries, or if peripheral advertisements and building designs are not considered, the wayfinding system’s visibility and agreeability can be reduced. Hence, a wayfinding system must harmonize in its design with the facility to maximize conspicuousness and familiarity.

Principle Three. The wayfinding system must be intuitive and simple, without providing too many details. Most pedestrians identify the path from their current location to their destination through the signage in the ambulation process. However, very detailed or complex information may create confusion and reduces its very own reliability. Therefore, simple information must be provided for pedestrians to understand a path intuitively and to reach their destination easily and promptly.

Principle Four. The space hierarchy selection must be based on the facility users’ needs with priority given to public elements like safety and emergency transport. The wayfinding system must also provide maximally accessible information about the most important paths. It is appropriate to focus on a space hierarchy, rather than to deliver information about all directions. Use of a highly quantified and accessible method for route selection is reasonable. The following figure shows an example of the COEX, using a space analysis program called Space Syntax.

Principle Five. Once the space hierarchy for guidance and the most accessible path are determined, the information should be provided continuously and consistently. In other words, it is necessary to apply uniform notations for the essential wayfinding elements, such as subway connection passages and vertically elevated facilities. Especially in the case of complex facilities, inconsistent guidance presentations may create confusion in the users.

Principle Six. The wayfinding system must be categorized by the action decision points, such as a spot or location at which to select a new or to continue a previous path. The choices within a facility are the points to select among multiple candidates for a path to reach a destination; otherwise, only one path is available without any alternatives. Therefore, at the points of path selection, detailed information possibly aids the pedestrians to reach an understanding about the path to the destination by themselves. However, at sections with only one available path, intricate information hinders mobility, since the pedestrians focus more on peripheral facilities than the relevant signage. Therefore, a wayfinding system must differentiate its information delivery with regard to the points where decisions for actions are made.


The Building Ordinance of Seoul defines the criteria for deliberation by the City Building Committee and in clause 1-1 of article 7, the reviewed subject is the construction of buildings with multiple functions. Large-scale complex facilities for which this study suggests wayfinding system requirements are the constructions that the Seoul Building Committee are obligated to review. This committee has also written and managed the detailed clauses of the “Seoul City Criteria for Deliberation on Buildings” that will, if updated, make the implementation of this study’s wayfinding system – which considers building interiors – highly possible.

Specifically, the contents about the wayfinding system in chapter 3, ”Publicity and Communality” of the “Seoul City Criteria for Deliberation on Buildings” should be reinforced. Currently, this chapter consists of 14 articles, but the “wayfinding system for large-scale complex facilities” could be included as article 15 to secure its implementation power by defining the “target constructions of a pedestrian wayfinding system” and the “principles of a pedestrian wayfinding system.”



01 Current Issues of Large-scale Complex Spaces

1_Widespread Large-Scale Complex Facilities

2_Fear of Losing Way in Large-Scale Complex Facilities


02 Selection of Target Facilities for Wayfinding System Development

1_Standards for the Requirements of Wayfinding in Large-scale Facilities

2_Standards for the Requirements of Wayfinding in Complex Facilities


03 Essential Elements for Guidance and Guidance Principles for Large-Scale Complex Facilities

1_Essential Elements of a Wayfinding System

2_Principles for a Wayfinding System


04 Application Examples and Plans for Wayfinding Systems in Large-Scale Complex Facilities

1_Application Examples for Wayfinding System in Large-Scale Complex Facilities

2_Application Plans for Wayfinding System in Large-Scale Complex Facilities