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We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.

Winston Churchill said this to the members of the House of Commons in 1943 when they were discussing whether or not to rebuild their chamber in the Palace of Westminster, which was destroyed in 1941 during one of the last raids of the World War II.

It's a quote that's been used for years by design professionals to help explain the influence of design on human behavior. For healthcare design professionals, though, it has particular significance, because of the impact the design of the physical environment can have on clinical outcomes. High stakes, indeed.

The hospital is a human invention and as such can be reinvented any time.

I'm not sure when Healthcare Futurist Leland R. Kaiser, Ph.D., first said this, but it is a quote that we used often in presentations when I was at The Center for Health Design.  For those of you who are building a new hospital or renovating an old one, Kaiser's words are a good reminder to never just do what's been done before.

Which is pretty much what Churchill did when he convinced the members of the House of Commons to rebuild their chamber in a simplified version of its old form. Like the previous chamber, the new one was not big enough to seat all the members. Churchill didn't care.  He wanted it to fill beyond capacity at critical votes and moments to create a sense of crowd and urgency.

Okay, so building the same old building worked for the British government back then. But it wouldn't work for healthcare. If everyone continued to just build the same old hospital, we'd still have open wards and stark white walls.

Instead, we have new hospitals that incorporate natural light, have single-bed patient rooms and comfortable waiting areas. Color, artwork. Access to nature.

So, we need to remember the wisdom that lies within these quotes. And keep sharing them, over and over again.

What other quotes inspire your work?

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Cheryl Janis

9 years ago

Hello Sara,

What a wonderful reminder as to why we are doing this work.

Some of my favorite quotes that inspire my interior design work are:

1-Maya Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

2-Keith Ferrazzi (author of Never Eat Alone): “Relationships are like muscles, the more you work them, the stronger they become.”

3-Dr. Esther Sternberg, (author of Healing Spaces: The Science of Place & Well-Being): "The future being talked about in medicine is person and place centered well-being. We want to know the place around us keeps us well, and helps us heal, as well as helping the planet."

Cathy Dolan-Schweitzer

9 years ago

Hello Sara,
Great way to get the message across that we cannot do things the "same old way" Here are some of my favorite quotes;
1. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
Leonardo daVinci
2. What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.
Samuel Johnson
3. To talk about balance, it's easier to talk about what's out of balance. And I think anytime that you have any disease, and disease meaning lack of ease, lack of flow...dis-ease. So any time there is disease, you're out of balance, whether it's jealousy, anger, greed, anxiety, fear.
Frank Lloyd Wright
We must remember that when we are building our healing spaces disease exists. How do we create a healing environment that has balance and meets our basic human needs: feeling safe, being courageous, feeling of belonging, kindness, calmness, and acceptance or self-actualization.

Stephen Reinel

9 years ago

In a recent article written about Alvar Aalto in Architect Magazine by Witold Rybczynski, Hon. FAIA, Alto is quoted:
"The room design is determined by the depleted strength of the patient, reclining in his bed. The color of the ceiling is chosen for quietness, the light sources are outside the patient's field of vision, the heating is oriented toward the patient's feet and the water runs soundlessly from the taps to make sure that no patient disturbed his neighbor".
This is from the design of his first-ever hospital (Paimio) in Finland over 80 years ago.

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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