Category Archives: hospital interior design

“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!


Jason Bruges Nature Trail installation for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital

London based lighting designer Jason Bruges created the above interactive installation, made with over 72,000 LED lights embedded in a custom printed hospital-grade wallpaper, for a 165 ft long corridor leading to the operating rooms at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

From Bruges’s website:

“The brief was to design and install a distraction artwork helping to create a calming yet engaging route that culminates in the patient’s arrival at the anesthetic room. Inspiration came from the idea of viewing the patient journey as a ‘Nature Trail’, where the hospital walls become the natural canvas, with digital look out points that reveal the various ‘forest creatures’, including horses, deer, hedgehogs, birds and frogs, to the passerby…. The LED panels are embedded into the wall surface at various heights in order to be accessible to the eye levels and positions of patients traveling along the corridors. Across these digital surfaces abstracted ‘animal movements’ are recreated as interactive animated patterns of light which reveal themselves through the trees & foliage of the forest.”

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.


WRL: Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Expansion

Minimalists will take get great joy from this post about the Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest Hospital‘s expansion and renovation by architecture firm Westlake Reed Leskosky. The hospital, located in Ohio, has about 500 beds, with 72 of them located in the newly built tower, which includes two dozen NICU rooms, as well as general inpatient beds. Healthcare Building Ideas writer  Jennifer Kovacs Silvis recently took a tour of the facility and noted:

Looking more like an art museum than a traditional healthcare setting, yesterday I saw firsthand how white walls, floors, ceilings, and, yes, even furniture, create an environment that goes against what many support as the proven best methods of healthcare design. What I found on our tours were very minimalistic interiors complemented by a standout art program that showcases commissioned works right alongside prints of infamous classics… And it’s silent. From sound-absorbing ceiling panels to offset the hard surface floors to systems running without any noticeable buzz, patients and staff alike are left with a soothing environment absent of distraction, a place where they can focus and be reflective on the medical situations at hand. Reed jokingly called it “un-architecture”—the firm’s simplification of the building design. But it’s really quite the opposite.

From the looks of these images, she’s spot-on. It’s an unusually simple space, with crispy simple art and tons of white, but it’s a breath of fresh air when viewed next to bright and busy linoleum floors and pattered upholstery. As for that art, the most noteworthy commission was for Catherine Opie’s series of photographic large-format photographs of Lake Erie in four seasons. The moody and luminous series was created specifically for the 100-foot concourse of the new tower. It’s a far cry from Opie’s political, challenging gender focused work she’s best known for – but it’s an excellent example of how an artist you’d never imagine including in a healthcare environment can create the perfect piece for one. There’s a nice review of the series here at, and in an article from the Cleveland News-Helard, Opie says:

“For those from the area, this serves as a reminder of all that exists just outside the walls of Hillcrest Hospital — the entire world’s potential and natural beauty”

BrittaBritta, Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital, Gothenburg

Swedish design firm BrittaBritta dreamed up these jungle themed exam rooms for the emergency department at Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital, in Gothenburg, Sweden. They were unveiled last month. The designers explain:

A real dream project! – To get to work with children as a customer… to give a more positive experience for the parents and children visiting these stressful environments.  Children’s Hospital has previously worked with a jungle theme in the decoration of the department. This took the form of photographs of animals from the jungle on the walls and associated narrative text about the species. Our proposal was also in the same spirit but takes it one step further! (Translated from Swedish by Google Translate)

One step further indeed. The beauty of pediatric projects is that a designer can be as wildly imaginative as a child. It’s worth noting that this design in particular is a fanciful decor that will appeal to both six year olds and sixteen year olds, not an easy balance to strike.

[via Offecct blog ]

Phoenix Children’s Hospital

The new tower at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital successfully avoids the typical hospital typology in favor of…an aesthetic I’m going to call the 1990s cruise ship aesthetic! The architects explain their aim was to evoke a “blooming desert flower.” No matter the associations, it’s a magical, spirited, and unique space designed by the firm HKS, a Dallas based powerhouse for medical architecture. Each floor has an animal that ‘sponsors’ it and a unique color scheme – enhancing wayfinding and adding to the playful atmosphere. Just how do these floors stack up? The lower level =  labs, a pharmacy, information technology, and storage for equipment. First floor = imaging, patient registry, outpatient pharmacy, a kitchen/restaurant, a 24-hour café, and administrative offices. The second floor =  ambulatory clinics. The third floor =  support functions, family spaces, and a rooftop garden. The fourth floor = inpatient procedures. The fifth floor and above are patient rooms. The patient rooms are each arranged with two groups of 24 single occupancy rooms. The elevator lobbies that people encounter as they move between floors each feature exterior views, a bronze animal sculpture, and a digital photographic wallcovering of a plant or nature scene. Like this:

A wonderful virtual tour is available on the Hospital’s website here. The project was featured on the March 2011 cover of Healthcare Design Magazine. In the accompanying article,  Sandra Miller, the HKS Interior Designer overseeing the interiors explains:

One of our directives was to avoid looking childish, which is one of the major challenges in a pediatric facility. The children treated here range in age from newborns to 20 years old, so it doesn’t make sense to only target the 5-to-8 year olds.  We established the look of the tower through color and artwork, and incorporating interactive positive distractions within the building

Art plays an important role in the concept. There are magnetic marker boards and each patient has an area on the wall outside of their room to display his or her own artwork, allowing them to personalize their own space. Miller explains that “the goal was to make each patient room like their own individual ‘front door’ into their world.” The hospital’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders also runs a website that allows shoppers to purchase original artwork or note cards featuring art by patients, with all funds going towards the hospital. You can see the spaces for patient artwork in the background here:

The dramatic lighting scheme throughout the building was overseen by lighting designer Scott Older with Philips Color Kinetics. The lighting is truly transformative in the above images, all taken after dark and perhaps ran through a photoshop filter or two. During the day the hospital looks a bit more…like a hospital, as you can see in this video from Phoenix news chanel abc 15:

(All Images HOK via modxdesign)




AECOM’s healing garden for Luther Midelfort – Mayo Health System

Architect Ellerbe Becket, a firm that works under the umbrella of Architecture/design/planning giant AECOM, designed a surreal  greenhouse style healing garden for the Luther Midelfort – Mayo Health System in Wisconson as part of an overall Critical Care Unit renovation. The details, from their website:

The Critical Care Unit includes 12 new beds for a total of 26 in 22,800 square feet (17,000 square feet of new construction and 5,800 square feet of renovation). Rooms in the expanded CCU are larger to accommodate family members who wish to be an active and involved part of the care process. The jewel of this project is the Healing Garden, an indoor garden with over 5,000 square feet of layers of green plantscape, filtered light and meandering paths.  The garden is located within the unit and can be accessed from other areas of the hospital. Several of the patient rooms have direct views into the garden. A meditation room within the Critical Care Unit is directly connected to a meditation area within the garden.

It’s quite a strange healing garden scheme, soaked in a  sort of Alice in Wonderlandy pastiche effect wherein nothing at all seems very natural about the space. With its strange rock tower fountain, mysterious baby grand piano, pale poured concrete floors, and dramatic spotlighting it’s hardly a space one might happen upon anywhere outside of corporate America. Nevertheless, it seems an effective, comforting centerpiece for the unit, that provides a whimsical multi-season alternative to a traditional lobby. Perhaps it will age with time to seem a bit more authentic? Until then, just look how downright lovely the tree shadow in the above photograph of a patient room is.

To gather additional information from advocates of Healing Gardens, you can visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Network website.

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.


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.

department of defense’s new military hosptial

This week, the US department of defense full opened the new billion dollar Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. The facility will absorb some patients from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which ceased operations this month. Walter Reed had been heavily criticized, in particular by a 2007 investigation by the Washington Post which highlighted massive problems with the crumbling and poorly maintained physical infrastructure of the building.

The gleaming descriptions of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital couldn’t sound further than the bleak picture of crumbling shower-heads and molding wallpaper in the aging Walter Reed facility. The official webpage of the military boasts that “exam rooms feature colorful murals of flowers, boats, or water on their walls” while the head of the hospital explains to the local newspaper that the facility will be “visually stunning.” All manners of evidence based design have been considered and there is a true, unabashed emphasis on patient comfort with single rooms, “airport” style way-finding, and an attempt to incorporate nature. The Military Times has an excellent extended feature that offers 360 degree panoramas of private and public spaces as well as videos explaining various elements of the design process.

While there is nothing particularly innovative about the design of the new facility, it’s remarkable and inspiring to see the Department of Defense and the Military fully incorporating, embracing, and promoting existing research and placing a real emphasis on making patient comfort the center of the built environment.

Circle Bath

one of the newest examples of media darling “starchiects” jumping on board the healthcare commission train with stunning results. circle bath is an extraordinary facility in bath designed by norman foster. the homepage of the hospital prominently features an eight minute from BBC scotland’s “culture show” on brand name architects working to destigmatize and humanize the patient experience in sleek new facilities that take the majority of their cues from the hospitality industry, without completely forgetting the community aspect of healthcare. the show opens with a declaration that hospitals previously had “more to do with illness than recovery, but that’s all changing with the creeping liberalization of healthcare provision. health is suddenly hot and superstar architects have suddenly become attracted.” according to the culture show the space is “littered with art” curated by the contemporary art society and in waiting rooms “the smell of cappuccino replaces the smell of disinfectant.” it also emphasizes a fact i have seen elsewhere, that there are absolutely no way traditional finding signs in the hospital, a luxury made possible by its hearty staff size and small patient size, with just 28 inpatient bedrooms. circle bath is a physician owned private hospital with a goal of having 30% of their patients NHS patients. additional media coverage is far from scarce, with features in mass media, architectural publications, and trendsetting blogs touting its reinvention of the hospital. prominent stories from march of this year can be seen in this bbc article and video, guardian article. foster has been commissioned by bath to design a new facility in didsbury, manchester, scheduled for completion in 2012.

great drawers

these spirited emergency room drawers found on flickr are not precisely my taste, but a simple, visually effective way to brighten an otherwise standard, utilitarian medical cart. the one comment on the flickr page speaks the truth as the author notes “the colors in theis are really cool. not hospital-y at all.”


jason middlebrook's mural in the bone marrow transfer unit of mount sinai

legendary artist ryan mcginness's mural at nyu's university child study center

garrett phelan's original market drawings at st. vincents

an organization similar to london’s vitalarts, new york based rxart commissions major contemporary artists to make thoughtful, site specific pieces for hospitals. they also acquire and curate original works and prints to be hung throughout patient spaces. founded by diane brown, a pre-med major who later ran a soho gallery, there is again a unique and admirable balance between sensitivity to the unique hospital environment, and a commitment to serious contemporary art in all the pieces rxart installs. from the rxart mission statement:

“We work with some of the most renowned and respected artists and arts professionals working today to provide exposure to the finest contemporary art in patient, procedure and examination rooms of healthcare facilities. We do not compromise the quality of the art we work with any more than a patient would knowingly compromise on the quality of their healthcare.

We do this because we believe in and support art’s capacity to provide hope and comfort in the most difficult of circumstances and to contribute immeasurably to spiritual and emotional health. Research evidence supports our belief that viewing art promotes a healing physiology which fortifies the immune system, changes pain perception, and decreases hospital length of stay.”