Category Archives: healthcare architecture

“Is This a Hospital or a Hotel?”

“Is This a Hospital or a Hotel?”

I don’t know how I missed this silly quiz the NY Times ran back in September as part of an article about patient amenities and hospitality influenced design in hospitals.

Picture 5

In a highly competitive field, patients — sometimes now referred to as “guests” — appreciate amenities. The tactic works. “We found that patient demand correlates much better to amenities than quality of care,” said Dr. John Romley, a research professor at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics of the University of Southern California, who has studied the trend. That means that hospitals can improve their bottom line and their reputation by focusing more on hospitality than health care — offering organic food by a celebrity chef rather than lowering medication errors, for example.

The article provides very few real insights and completely ignores years of evidence that make s strong case for patient comfort as a measurable factor in a speedier recovery…but I must admit taking the “quiz” is enjoyable. I managed to get 11/12 – and the one I got wrong is a private “medspa” within a hospital so I don’t think it should count against me!


Dementia Village ‘De Hogeweyk’

De Hogeweyk

De Hogeweyk “Dementia Village” is a remarkably design-oriented facility for aging Dutch with advanced stage dementia. Located in the city of Weesp outside of Amsterdam, the facility houses around 150 residents in 23 small residential units with 6-7 dwellers per unit. Opened in 2012, the village strives to maintain a sense of normalcy for its residents and does so in large part through design. Caretakers wear street clothes. Molenaar&Bol&VanDillen’s master plan includes a Boulevard complete with grocery store, pub, restaurant, theater, and hairdresser. Particularly striking is the interior design throughout – there is no cookie cutter influence of a typical healthcare designer’s pragmatic please-everyone details. Instead, residents can pick from houses each decorated with a distinct and very residential feel designed to replicate a “genre” of lifestyle and create a link to the life they enjoyed outside of the village. These include homey, Christian, artisan, farming, “goois” or upperclass, Indonesian, and cultural. The restaurant and pub would not look out of place in downtown Amsterdam. The facility is owned and operated by a government-owned nursing home group called Vivium. There are also some good images available on the architecture blog Detail.

Metropolis: A Culture of caring

The October 2012 issue of Metropolis Magazine includes an insightful article chronicling the unique considerations Western architecture firms must address when designing healthcare facilities for oversees markets. From the article:

For health-care designers working in far-flung regions, learning to patch the seams that split as  West meets East (and Middle East), is as important  as calculating volumes, systems, and energy loads.  In China, designers need to produce structures that integrate best-in-class Western technologies with time-tested traditional Chinese medicine. In India, developers want new hospitals to conform to the thousand-year-old practice of vastu shastra—the Hindu version of China’s feng shui. In the Islamic world, facility plans must include prayer and ablution rooms, along with gender-specific waiting areas.  And plans must be jiggered to ensure that not a single toilet in any facility faces Mecca.

Jean-Philippe Pargade

Private hospital outside of Lille, France by Jean-Philippe Pargade

Jean-Philippe Pargade‘s Paris based architecture studio is receiving attention for a recently inaugrated private hospital located outside of Lille, France. Pictured above, the hospitality inspired hospital includes 225 beds, 10 operating rooms, and well as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and nuclear medicine units. Color blocks of spring hues matched with large windows and swaths of white, allow for clever way-finding clues in a light and crisp environment. The windows are the most strikingly unique element of the building, featuring flower motifs by artist Gary Glaser in incorporated into glazing by Ace Glass.

This hospital is not Pargade’s first project in the field of healthcare design. In 2007 they worked with Gary Glaser to colorize the Sarthe-et-Loir Health Center, Using a similar vocabulary, the firm explains that the design “creates tension between the rural landscape and the technological elegance of the architecture. The sensitive facade of silk-screen-printed glass is animated by the musical rhythm of the windows. Colour plays a major role and reveals the vital contribution to the clinics that has been made by the use of art work.”

A similar color scheme and ideology can be seen in the beautiful 2012 facade renovation at the military teaching hospital in Saint-Mande “which creates a hyphen between the city and the Bois de Vincennes, an architecture of transitions and passages, introducing fluidity between the countryside and architectural stratifications of different ages that are present at the site.”

Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne


Uk Design Website Adelto has a stunning slideshow of design details at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. 

Melbourne’s new $1 billion (Aus) Royal Children’s Hospital,  unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II was Designed in a joint venture between Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart Architects (BLBS), with US-based HKS as international advisors. The RCH received the ‘International Interior Design Award’ at the 2012 Emirates Glass LEAF Awards, which took place during this year’s London Design Festival.


Fougeron Architecture for Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood MacArthur Health Center

With last week’s media spotlight on Planned Parenthood in light of the Komen Foundation attempting to pull funding from the organization, I’ve spent quite some time looking for an example of a thoughtful design for a Planned Parenthood clinic. It wasn’t the easiest of tasks, but it proved fruitful in the end when I discovered San Fransisco firm Fougeron Architecture’s work at two California clinics. Planned Parenthood is a unique client due to budgetary constraints and security concerns. As California Architects discusses in an article on the projects “it is an architecture, which lives in the political realm, it has to deal with real life issue of guns, bullet resistant materials, dangerous acids and young women being terrorized.”  Fougeron’s designs sway slightly to the “clinical” side of the healthcare design spectrum, and include necessities such as bulletproof glass and materials all around, doors that lock on closing, and panic buttons everywhere. All of this security is actually very low profile, and the overall effects are of those of dabbled natural light skimming over varied surfaces in a spirited, clean and contemporary environment. In an interview with The Architect’s Take, Anne Fougeron explains:

With the Planned Parenthood clinics, I didn’t want clinics that look like a prison. There’s already so much victimization of women… why punish them further by making them come to a jail for basic care? Ninety percent of Planned Parenthood’s business is providing basic gyn care – exams, pap smears – for women who can’t afford it any other way. These women already going through enough in their lives. Some of them already have other traumas to work through. The clinics should make them feel wanted and safe.

Eastmont Mall Planned Parenthood

Eastmont Mall Planned Parenthood

Ryue Nishizawa, Hiroshi Senju Museum

Here we are again with this is a ______ but imagine if it were a hospital/clinic. Part of the goal of this blog is to encourage a loosening of the rigid healthcare building typology by infusing it with ideas from other genres of building. Healthcare designers are, largely by practical necessity, tied to a rather specific and stale typology. While certain elements of healthcare are fixed, there’s room for exploration and experimentation architects and administrators often fail to creatively engage with. As a blogger, I get to dream big. This is a museum in Japan, dedicated to painter Hiroshi Senju, but imagine if it were a hospital. (Bonus fact: Senju’s large scale paintings of waterfalls would, coincidentally, be stunning in healthcare environments.)

Back to the design of the museum. Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa designed the single story building in collaboration with Senju. The most prominent feature are the four gashes in the space, which allow lush gardens and natural light to insert themselves into the very core of the building. There are over 150 different species of plants growing on the property. With all the discussion of the importance of sunlight and connection to nature in healthcare design, perhaps it’s time to look beyond the window and the traditional healing garden and into a more revolutionary approach that allows nature to more brashly infiltrate a space. From archdaily:

The floor gently follows the pre-existing contours of the land, subtly swelling and dipping throughout the gallery. A series of organically-shaped light wells puncture through the roof, injecting pockets of greenery within the interior. Deeps eaves, silver screens, and UV-cut glass panels control the amount of daylight intake while allowing in the qualities of the forest.

ORL Clinic / Mal-Vi Architects

image © giorgio papadopoulos, mal-vi architects

Mal-Vi Architects created a warm, surprising, and professional interior for a 970 square foot  ORL clinic in Thessaloniki Greece. ORL stands for otorhinolaryngology in Greek, or, quite literally, “the study of ear and throat.” It’s safe to assume that this particular practice likely has a focus on the ear given the presence of a prominent “acoustic wave” partition. From the Mal-Vi’s website:

Given the fact that the client was a newly arrived surgeon in Thessaloniki (Greece), we were handed the task of creating a memorable office space, providing an experience as distant as possible from the usual image one associates with a visit to a doctor’s studio. In order to separate the medic’s office and exam room from the reception space and waiting room, a flexible partition was designed. The partition incorporates the reception desk, as well as the exam room entrance, while its bulging shape—deriving from the form of an acoustic wave, is a reference to the practitioner’s field of specialty.

The text on the waiting room walls below is the Hippocratic oath (in Greek, naturally). The space is sleek, modern, and successfully looks nothing like a traditional doctor’s office. The lighting design is by local lighting company Reflectlights, and the green space design is by VitaVerde.

image © giorgio papadopoulos, mal-vi architects

image © giorgio papadopoulos, mal-vi architects

(via Designboom)

Kentish Town Health Centre

I’ve posted a number of word-heavy blog posts recently. Here are some beautiful images of one of my all time favorite healthcare buildings, the Kentish Town Health Centre in London. It opened in 2008, and was designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.

It’s such a gorgeous building. According to World News Architecture it houses a large GP practice, a dentist, paediatric, dental and children’s services, breast screening and diagnostic imaging, plus office space, staff facilities, library and meeting rooms all designed around an internal street. From the architects’ publication on the project:

The vision was to create a wonderful building where not only medicine but health and art came together for the community. Ideas of transparency and  connectivity were embraced by the architects  and the whole team worked collaboratively to create a building that expresses the new, holistic approach to healthcare. KTHC creates a bold civic presence that responds to its environment.

Here is a wonderful 4 minute video wherein the architect, Paul Monaghan, explains the project with images of the building itself interspersed.


Legacy ER, in Frisco Texas, is a freestanding emergency room that serves as both an urgent care clinic for non-emergency ailments and a fully functioning ER. Traditionally, these kinds of medicines were seldom housed under the same brand in the same roof, but having them integrated ensures you don’t need to decide whether a trip to urgent care or the ER is more appropriate. However, the two different kinds of care happen on two different tracks, with the nursing station in between, so a toddler with a sore throat won’t be right next to someone with a major knife wound.  All of this happens in a sleek 6,200 square food setting designed by Texas firm 5g. From a 2008 press release on the LegacyER website:

The three founders of Legacy ER, Kirk D. Mahon, M.D., Steven E. Martz, M.D., FACEP and Jay R. Woody, M.D., FACEP wanted a building that was more organic in nature and comforting to patients. To provide rooms with privacy, definition was made using opaque walls and translucent glazing panels. The effect is sound proofed rooms without the use of claustrophobic cubicles or draping. Exposed, polished concrete floors and exterior zinc panels further enhance the patient experience by offering a tactile quality, while natural light provides brightness without the harsh, sterile feel that artificial lighting traditionally offers.

There is also a great write-up of the project on Architectural Record’s website. It’s a cutting-edge concept that I think we’ll see more and more of as in-hospital emergency rooms become even more burdened, and the space looks completely appropriate for it’s function. Serene, inviting, and reassuringly sterile. LegacyER has a perfect five star rating on yelp, an extremely rare feat for a medical facility of an urgent or emergency nature.

Architecture, Art and Wellbeing Lecture

Tuesday, November 8th you can listen live to the RSA and Maggie’s Centers’ lecture on Architecture, Art and Wellbeing online for free right here. It’ll be at 6pm British time, or 1pm for East Coasters.

“The concept of ‘healing architecture’ has been developing over the last two decades and a large amount of research has been carried out into the impact of architectural design on the success of healthcare environments. Evidence that architects can significantly alter a patients’ experience and quality of life has led to a change in attitude and approach to designing spaces such as the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.

Architect Piers Gough, art critic Richard Cork and consultant Dr Sam Guglani discuss Maggie’s pioneering approach to cancer care, and how this collaborative approach can be replicated and used to influence policy to develop better environments for people in healthcare.”

Koolhaas/OMA for Maggie’s Center Glasgow

(images via Wallpaper)

Unveiled last week: a cancer support center nestled into Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital, designed by favorite starchitect’s Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architechture. Koolhaas, along with partner Ellen van Loon, created this  single-level building in the form of a ring of interlocking rooms surrounding an internal landscaped courtyard, to serve as the UK’s newest Maggie’s Center. Maggie’s center is a network of small-scale, comfortable environments where cancer patients and their friends and families can go to seek “emotional support and practical advice” in a friendly, non institutional space.

“The interlocking spaces contain a shared living room, library, kitchen, and dining area with private counseling rooms. Many of the rooms have sliding doors with access to the outdoors or face out onto the courtyard…The whole place is carefully curated to provide a less clinical experience not just for patients but also for their friends and family. ‘I think it should be a building where the space and the quality of the space and environment are the most important thing – Ellen van Loon.'” (via fastco design’s coverage of the new building)

The space still appears unfinished and sterile, but the connection to nature is unmistakably gorgeous and if Maggie’s Center’s previous projects with big league architects like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid are any indication it will be cozy in no time. You can watch Mr. Koolhaas himself discuss the design process in the below video, filmed during Maggie’s Architecture and Health Symposium in 2010.


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.