Opinionated hospital design 11 Sep 2006
32 comments Latest by Unity Stoakes
A recent trip to visit a relative at a hospital led to this discussion…
Good news: Where the Healing Touch Starts With the Hospital Design describes the growing movement to humanize hospital design.
A sprinkling of architects and designers around the world are working to greatly change hospitals by humanizing their design, a concept that is slowly gaining influence in Europe and the United States.
The idea is obvious: Build inviting, soothing hospitals, graced with soft lighting, inspiring views, single rooms, curved corridors, relaxing gardens and lots of art, and patients will heal quicker, nurses will remain loyal to their employers and doctors will perform better…
Their research shows, for example, that patients who can see trees instead of cars from their windows recover more quickly, and that single rooms help stave off infection and draw more visits from friends and family members.
The article singles out the Rikshospitalet University Hospital in Oslo which “has been held up as a model hospital and has attracted pilgrimages by designers all over the world.”
Built around the village concept, the 585-bed hospital starts out with a beautiful main street, which gently curves from one end to the other and has a skylight for a roof. One end of the street is a floor-to-ceiling window covered with a multicolored painted glass design, which gives off a stained-glass effect when the sun shines.
Along the way, there are pretty lampposts with hanging plants and, most important, large works of art - fountains, sculptures, textile hangings - that serve as landmarks for the different departments, a strategy that helps patients find their way around the hospital.
There is even a piano on the main street for patients and visitors to play whenever they want. Staff members travel long distances on scooters…
The architects insisted on lots of windows with open vistas of gardens, the spectacular fjords and a beautiful old building that was once a psychiatric hospital. Even doctors have windows in their operating rooms. Patients look out over the gardens, while employees and families in waiting rooms see the fjords.
Colors and furniture in the hospital change constantly, from pinks and blues in the patient rooms to energetic yellows in the physical therapy rooms. Waiting rooms have computers, foosball tables, pianos and television sets.
The hospital is also designed more horizontally, to cut the time that staff members spend waiting for elevators. Patients lying on gurneys do not see jarring fluorescent lights, but pretty curved ceilings with soft lighting. Since it opened, the hospital has nearly doubled its number of patients (250,000 a year), lowered its turnover and absentee rates and reinvigorated its recruitment, said Age Danielsen, its administrative director.
The hospital set up two mock-ups of the rooms at its hospital in West Bend, enabling nurses and others to make suggestions. “The nurses designed the space. It wasn’t the architects.”
Hospital patients are often fearful and confused and these feelings may impede recovery. Every effort should be made to make the hospital stay as unthreatening, comfortable, and stress-free as possible. The interior designer plays a major role in this effort to create a therapeutic environment.