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Beautiful hospitals

Last month after Soliant released its list of most beautiful hospitals in America, I wrote a post about hospital design not being a beauty contest.

I still believe that hospital design is not a beauty contest, but thanks to the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), I have a new appreciation of the meaning of beauty in design.

Beauty in Design is More Than Just Aesthetics

In a post titled, “Why Beautiful Spaces Make Us Healthier,” Rose Winer and Julia Keim make the following points about beauty in design:

  • The function of beauty in design extends beyond aesthetics to influence human health and well-being
  • Beauty in design can be defined as a combination of design principles, design elements, and aesthetics
  • Research demonstrates that beautifully-designed spaces support psychological and emotional wellness and foster collective community engagement and unity
  • Encouraging and maintaining beauty in spaces can add value for people in our buildings, project owners, and the surrounding community

Ever hear of neuroaesthetics? Winer and Keim explain that it’s a field of study that examines aesthetics from the perspective of neuroscience (study of the nervous system), capturing the “psychological effects of beauty incorporated into design.”

Features That Integrate Beauty and Design

Beauty and Design have always been required for WELL Building Standard project certification.  They fall under the Integrative Design feature.

Those submitting projects for certification are asked to write a narrative that addresses the following features that integrate beauty and design:

  • Celebration of culture (e.g., culture of occupants, workplace, surrounding community)
  • Celebration of place (e.g., local architecture, materials, flora, artists)
  • Integration of public art
  • Human delight

While there isn’t a healthcare category for WELL Building Standard projects, all of these features are essential to great hospital projects.  And if any building should be healthy, it’s a hospital.

I hope the Soliant folks read the WELL Building post. It might help them define what beauty really means to hospitals and their patients, families, and staff.

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Photo:  PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at River Bend, Springfield, Ore. Lead Architects: Anshen+Allen Architects (now Stantec). Photography: David Wakely.

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Leave a comment



Cathy Dolan Schweitzer

4 weeks ago

Sara I agree if any building should be healthy it should be a hospital and…. all buildings to keep us healthy so hopefully we won’t need to go to a hospital.

Mark L VanderKlipp

4 weeks ago

Beautiful spaces are only as good as the information provided about them and within them. A beautiful healthcare “space” for me is one where I am fully supported with communications that clearly define what’s expected of me, what will happen to me, and when. Beautiful physical spaces mean nothing to a person that’s confused, overwhelmed and feeling at the mercy of the institution.

If your campus “front door” is a dark, dangerous and crumbling parking garage, your new multi-million dollar care pavilion will only cause patients to say “sure, they can spend money on THIS, but why the heck don’t they solve the REAL problem?”

Sara_Marberry_Sq

Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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