How to Navigate the Pentagon

The Pentagon is an enormous building, comprised of:

  • 6.5 Million Square Feet
  • 17.5 Miles of Corridors
  • 7 Levels
  • 25,000 Employees

If you are one of the 25,000 employees in this huge facility, imagine adding to your situation that you are one of the estimated 6.6 million visually impaired adults in the United States. How easily could you navigate the 6.5 million square feet of space? We were challenged by the Department of Defense (DOD) to develop a solution.

Aerial View of the Pentagon

How Do You Navigate and Orient Yourself?

To begin, you have to understand how circulation works in the Pentagon. The building is comprised of 5 Wedges, like slices of a pie. Each Wedge is numbered, 1-5. The hubs where the Wedges meet are called Apexes.

The Wedges are connected by a circular corridor system of Rings, lettered A-E. Only the innermost corridor, A, and the outermost corridor, E, are uninterrupted. Corridors B-D have secure access points along their routes.

To complicate it further, there are ten corridors, 1-10, that radiate from the main connecting corridor, A, to the outermost corridor, E.

Confused? Disoriented? Now imagine 20’ wide corridors and an architectural interior that is grey and white, nondescript, and visually similar from all angles.

Illustration of Pentagon Existing Room Sign
Illustration of Existing Room Sign at the Pentagon

 

The room signs in the Pentagon are up-to-date and are ADA compliant, but the visually impaired require more aids for orientation and wayfinding, given the size and complexity of the facility. Although the ADA does not require wayfinding signs to have tactile copy, the Pentagon desired to accommodate the needs of visually impaired staff members.

How Does Someone Who is Visually Impaired Find a Sign?

How would the visually impaired locate signs in the environment, and how would those who read tactile copy determine the location of tactile text? A unique solution was proposed that utilized ADA methodologies.

Wayfinding signs designed for the Pentagon are large due to the corridor size, amount of occupants, and viewing distances. Their size and high-contrast color palette makes signs more easy to identify in the environment, and more easily read by those with vision impairments. Signs are also designed to be consistently located at corner positions or centered on walls at corridor terminations so that they are in expected locations throughout the facility.

Tactile and braille portions of signs are located within the ADA compliant height ranges. We also added a unique feature to the sign edge to clue those reading the tactile characters in on the position of the raised text and braille. Signs have tactile beads added to the side edges to identify the area of the tactile copy.

Pentagon Wayfinding Sign Design Pentagon Wayfinding Sign Angled View Showing Tactile Beads
Pentagon Wayfinding Sign Design (left)
Angled View Showing Tactile Beads on Edge (right)

 

We recognized that all workers within the Pentagon received extensive orientation briefing, and only staff members can circulate without an escort. Given that the layout and organization of the facility is explained during the initiation process with general information, direction on the use of this unique system could be provided.

Even with this system, orientation remained a challenge given the extremely wide corridors. We observed that the visually impaired tended to circulate near the wall surfaces so they could find decision points more easily.

We proposed the addition of small tactile orientation and directional signs at the corners of all corridor transition points. Again, these are placed in a consistent and predictable location.

Pentagon Orientation and Directional Tags
Pentagon Orientation and Directional Small Tag Signs

 

If you have a complex facility that may require unique wayfinding solutions, please contact us to see how we might help.


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