Designing Care: The Importance of Humanization in Healthcare Spaces
Silent and endless hallways, white and cold rooms, an impersonal and distant atmosphere: this is a deeply ingrained image in our cultural conception of hospital environments. The whiteness of these spaces, attempting to reinforce the necessary notions of sterility and cleanliness, may also evoke a sense of discomfort and anxiety for patients and their families.
The importance of humanizing hospital, clinic, and office projects is an increasingly discussed and relevant topic in healthcare, extending far beyond the aesthetics of these buildings. It is necessary to create welcoming environments that promote the well-being of patients, families, and professionals, recognizing that architecture can play a fundamental role in the recovery and comfort of these individuals during moments of vulnerability.
Studies in neuroarchitecture delve into the connection between the built environment and brain function, focusing on emotional, cognitive, and physiological responses. In healthcare projects, there is a strong emphasis on creating spaces that promote calmness, concentration, and a sense of security, which involves employing colors, textures, and layouts to minimize feelings of confinement and enhance the perception of control over the environment. For example, using soft and soothing colors can alleviate anxiety, and a well-thought-out spatial arrangement can improve patient orientation and streamline the work of healthcare professionals.
Biophilia also underlies humanization in these projects, recognizing humans’ innate affinity with nature and acknowledging that the presence of natural elements in built environments can enhance people’s health and well-being. In healthcare areas, architects can incorporate elements such as natural light, greenery, outdoor views, and organic materials, which can reduce stress, improve mood, and expedite patients’ recovery process. Additionally, comfortable waiting areas and indoor gardens can provide relaxation and emotional relief, conveying empathy and care.
Humanization in the design of clinics, offices, and hospitals aims to create spaces that promote the recovery, comfort, and well-being of patients, families, and professionals. However, it is crucial to emphasize that this humanization goes beyond the physical aspects of the buildings; it also extends to the organizational culture of institutions. Healthcare professionals must foster a welcoming and humanized environment where effective communication and respect for the patient are priorities.
Architects can help improve healthcare quality and patient recovery by incorporating specific elements and concepts. Below, we have selected five healthcare projects that, with thoughtful and deliberate choices, have made their environments more welcoming and effective.
Maggie’s Leeds Centre / Heatherwick Studio
“The interior of the centre explores everything that is often missed in healing environments: natural and tactile materials, soft lighting, and a variety of spaces designed to encourage social opportunities as well as quiet contemplation. Window sills and shelves are intended for visitors to fill with their own objects to create a sense of home.”
New Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital / Lyons + Conrad Gargett
“Its brightly colored exterior, incorporating the green and purple coloration of the native Bougainvillea plantings in the adjacent parklands, speaks of a building designed for children. The design uses a “salutogenic” approach, incorporating design strategies that research has shown to directly support patient health and well-being. Two and three-dimensional art is used extensively throughout the building to promote patient wellbeing and provide engaging distractions for young patients.”
Clinic in the Woods / Takashige Yamashita Office
“Mixed up with the small forests introduced in between the volumes and soaring through the roof, the treatment rooms offer a calm, comfortable scene embraced in nature that would soothe the anxiety of little patients.”
PAMS Healthcare Hub, Newman / Kaunitz Yeung Architecture
“The building is predominantly rammed earth, the original building material, abundant, free, and sustainable. However, its value to the project is much more profound than this. Rammed earth creates a human and intuitive connection to its place. The material is country. It reflects the different light and absorbs the rain just like a country. This is obvious and immediate to everyone but elevated and important for Aboriginal people. A place for the community to be proud of and welcome in. A place that puts wellness at the center of the community.”
Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen / Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects + Mikkelsen Architects + STED
“Studies show that traditional hospital settings can make healthy patients feel ill and weaken them physically and emotionally. Therefore, user involvement has been the common thread throughout the creation of SDCC with an emphasis on ensuring a pleasant experience in all stages of arrival, waiting, and consultation. The design rethinks the function of common areas, converting waiting time to active time and supporting a natural flow of activities around the themes of diet, exercise, and new knowledge.”
The excerpts were taken from the project memorials.