Monthly Archives: September 2011

MASS Design Group

It’s easy to get caught up in patient amenities, wall murals, and poppy mid-centry design – but it’s always good to take a step back and look at the philosophy that drives healthcare design in countries with far health fewer resources. The Butaro Hospital, in Butaro Rwanda was designed by MASS Design Group, a group of Harvard Architecture students founded with a little help from Partners in Health, to create “well-built environments using appropriate design, local investment, and innovation to break the cycle of poverty.” They explain:

Our design makes use of local materials – like the volcanic rock from the Virunga Mountain Chain – and labor intensive practices in an effort to deliver appropriate and sustainable design, as well as stimulate the local economy. The design and coordinated construction reduced the cost of this hospital to roughly two thirds of what a hospital of this size would typically cost in Rwanda. The Butaro Hospital brought architects, builders, and doctors directly to a community most in need and addressed global poverty by creating better built, more equitable environments and embedding systems that ensured its long-term, independent sustainability.

The ventilation system depicted below is designed to decrease the spread of airborne illnesses like tuberculosis.

Almost 4,000 local individuals were trained and employed over the course of design and construction. The hospital now serves over 400,000 people.

The members of MASS Design Group clearly have a particular investment in designing and constructing healthcare facilities in developing countries. Their excellent website that features case studies exploring concept and logistics involved in building other new healthcare centers in places like Sudan and Mali. They also developed a great, user friendly, kind of choose-your-own-adventure design framework for building facilities in challenging environments that features helpful tips and facts like “In ideal situations, provide 1 restroom per 12-15 patients. These should be given distance from the beds and placed in between stations” and “Standard Electric blood bank refrigerator: Recommended if the facility has 24 hour supply of electricity off the grid, with an option of a backup generator during outages. Solar powered blood bank refrigerator: Recommended for facilities with limited or no access to national electricity from the grid. Good in regions with sufficient amounts of sunshine year round.”

Additional information about MASS Design Group’s work in Rwanda can be found in an article over on Design with Africa, including this Tedx talk by co-founder Mariska Shioiri-Clark.

fitzsimmons architects for Keith Gibson DDS

Not to be outdone by yesterday’s Dutch dentist extravaganza, the states has some pretty fine examples of dental clinics as well. Why do dentists tend to have all the fun when it comes to design? Dr. Keith Gibson seems to have had a lot of fun with this spirited renovation of his Oklahoma City dental office in cooperation with fitzsimmons architects. Here’s the architects’ take on the challenge at hand.

Located on a busy arterial thoroughfare in the western part of the city, the original street front entry had been abandoned in favor of a more private side entry. The entry from the side of the building presented several difficulties the most severe of which was dividing the lab areas from the operatories and a very restricted traffic way through the reception and business areas. The primary feature added by the design concept was the creation of a poured-in-place concrete screen wall at the original entry side of the building which created an entry court shielded from the traffic flow. The entry court also became the back-drop for a dramatic steel pipe screen and canopy inspired by both crooked and straight teeth represented in abstract sculptural forms.

Tandartspraktijk(s) design


Tandartspraktijk means dental practice in Dutch and it a quick Google image search indicates that Dutch (and Flemish) speakers take the design of these Tandartspraktijks quite seriously. Why can’t American doctors be even half this serious about design? Above, a ridiculously sleek dental practice designed by Belgian architecture firm Caan. A bit jarring amidst the small Belgian town of Merelbeke, with it’s population of 22,000.

Next, a total contrast and a successful integration of gorgeous old architecture and contemporary details at dental clinic Sweelinckplein 7 in the Hague:

Artist Pim Van Halem made a number of colorful commissioned works specifically for Tandartspraktijk ceilings (link in Dutch) from 1988-1998:

Tandartspraktijk Julianadorp features intense (distracting!) wall murals and vintage touches – with strategic branding by designer Terra Preta:

Herman Jacob design was responsible for the below waiting room for Tandartspraktijk DentiQ – Eemnes, located in an old convent! That rough, chunky, natural furniture and the intricate metalwork of the ceiling lights lend a touch of handcrafted warmth.


Emma Children’s Hosptial, Amsterdam


Interior design firm OPERA Amsterdam was responsible for re-designing part of The Emma Children’s hospital in Amsterdam. Conceptually, the firm organized the space around the following idea:

The ‘parade,’ the main corridor that runs through the hospital much like a high street through a large town, plays an important part in the design. A high street leads off to all the main public spaces in a town: the town square, the zoo, the park, the sports fields, the theater… but it also leads home and ultimately to the child’s bedroom. OPERA took the metaphor of the high street as the guiding principle for a coherent design. In addition, they created the option of variation by introducing a clever and sophisticated colour scheme that is slightly different in each area. Artists from around the world were asked to create illustrations to fit in with the interior design for the Parade.

The giant rainforest mural below is rumored to have been printed using Lenticular printing, making the image change as the viewer shifts round it in space. The video below demonstrates the magic of Lenticular printing – unfortunately I couldn’t find images with the Emma Children’s Hosptial mural moving. The arts and health non-profit I interned at last summer was in negotiations with a Lenticular printer as well, and the technique is a great possibility for keeping images in healthcare spaces surprising and dynamic.

Gregory Euclide

I’ve had a blank post titled “Gregory Euclide” sitting in my drafts since last January, but he’s fairly recently gained a lot of attention for designing the most recent Bon Iver CD cover. Euclide is an artist who’s charming, challenging, nature-inspired, three dimensional reliefs would be, in my opinion, ideal for a hospital environment. Just unexpected enough, and, frankly stated, beautiful. Sarah Owen write in the NY Times Style section:

Stumbling upon art that is difficult to categorize is sometimes unsettling and, at other times, simply intriguing. The latter case applies to Gregory Euclide’s work which, at a glance, looks like an elegant spill of paint but on closer inspection reveals a carefully executed diorama. Euclide’s inspiration is drawn from the land, but that is not to say he paints landscapes. “I know that I am simply using the landscape to reach something more complicated,” he says.

His work is also a perfect compromise between the Natural-Landscapes-Soothing-Colors school of hospital art curators, and those who prefer more challenging, contemporary art. I saw the below installation at a recently-closed exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design in New York and immediately imagined it in a primary care waiting room –  a delight.

PriestmanGoode’s airplane influenced hospital

While day dreaming about attending the upcoming Inside: World Festival of Interiors in Barcelona (breaking Barcelona news: Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia gets a final completion date – 2026 or 2028) I found this video featuring Designer Paul Priestman of PriestmanGoode explaining the ideas behind the firm’s airplane influenced hospital recovery lounge concept. PriestmanGoode is most well known for their work in the transportation and hospitality industries, and as you can see their recovery lounge concept effectively provides semi-private spaces in a public space much in the same way as a first class seat on an airplane or a train does. Additionally, the firm published a health manifesto that can be downloaded on their website, concluding:

There is a huge opportunity now to use the smart art of design to great effect in healthcare. Design is already proving it can have a dramatic effect in creating better-value, longer-lasting products that are hygienic and better for the wellbeing of patients in hospitals. The next step is to apply this thinking to the design of better value patient environments that take the physical and financial strain off current hospital facilities, in a way that is more efficient for healthcare services and more comfortable and better suited to the needs of patients.

Wayfinding for Zurich Retirement Facitlity

A unique wayfinding system by designer Tina Stäheli – Shinohara for a retirement community in Zurich. The designer was careful to point out that it is a retirement home – not a nursing home – so the wayfinding is primarily intended for visitors and not residents, who have a good grasp on the space:

“Our aim was to make the semi-public space of a home for the elderly more private by displaying the information in picture frames. The signage system consists of seven modules of frames which can be combined in different ways. Information for visitors is set in a bigger font than information for the residents.”

It’s a beautiful, simple, forward thinking solution but I’d be interested to see what the residents make of it because it has the potential to be disorienting and difficult to extract information from.

(via swiss-miss)