It’s always great when the mainstream media writes about what the healthcare design community has been talking about for years.
Last week, both the Wall St. Journal and the New York Times featured pieces on hospital design. Columnist Laura Landro of the Journal wrote about the healing powers of public art, while the Times’ architecture critic Michael Kimmelman tackled the subject of whether good design can help heal the sick.
Kimmelman’s thoughtful review of the new University Medical Center of Princeton, which opened two years ago, points out many of the evidence-based design decisions that were made to improve outcomes — including single same-handed patient rooms, access to natural light, strategic placement of hand washing sinks, and more.
In doing so, Kimmelman also explores the current state of hospital design, lamenting that it has “often been ignored by front-rank architects” and is a “critical frontier for design.” These are both true statements.
Are front-rank architects able to design better hospitals than the most talented healthcare architects and design specialists? Maybe in some cases, but not the ones I’ve seen lately.
It Starts With a Vision
Great buildings usually require a visionary client. How many hospital leaders are truly visionary when it comes to building design? There are so many reasons why hospital buildings turn out the way they do.
Listening to front-rank architect Michael Graves, who’s recently turned his attention to healthcare design, Kimmelman thinks he’s uncovered another reason why design innovation is missing in many healthcare projects. Graves told him it’s because most hospital architects have never been in a wheelchair.
What? That’s like saying you can’t design a ballpark unless you’re a ballplayer. Or design an elementary school if you’re not a child.
The best healthcare designers I know get patient and staff input to inform their designs. Some even have their project team members stay overnight in a hospital.
Okay, it’s not the same as being in a wheelchair, but my guess is that most RFPs don’t require someone on the project team to be in a wheelchair. Maybe they should.
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