Just like medical Care has evolved from hemorrhage to bacteriological therapies, and the medical facilities where patients live have also been transformed. Today, architects and designers are trying to find ways to make hospitals more comfortable, hoping that comfortable spaces will lead to better recovery. But building for healing involves just as much empathy as it does synthesizing cold, solid data.
“The best part of caring can be to keep people calm, to give them a place to live – things that may seem trivial but really important,” said Anmari Adams, a professor at McGill University who studies the history of hospital architecture.
In the 19th century, the famous nurse Florence Nightingale popularized the pavilion plan, which featured wards: long rows of beds, large windows, large rooms with plenty of natural light and plenty of cross-ventilation. These designs were based on the theory that ponds spread disease. The wards, however, offer almost no privacy for patients and require a lot of space, something that is hard to find in increasingly dense cities. They also mean lots of walking for the nurses who had to go up and down the isles.
In the next century, the focus on natural light faded to prioritizing sterile spaces that would limit the spread of germs and accommodate the growing raft of medical equipment. After World War I, the new rule was to cluster patient rooms around nurses’ stations. These designs were easy for nurses who no longer had to track long corridors, and they were cheaper to heat and make. But they do hold traps in old-fashioned residential medical facilities, such as sanatoriums where patients will recover for a long time; Both mimicked fancy hotels with ornate lobbies and fine food, intended to convince middle-class people that “they were better at the hospital than at the hospital when seriously ill,” Adams wrote in a 2016 article on hospital architecture. Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. He argued that the design was intended to give people confidence in the organization: “a tool of persuasion rather than healing.”
In the late 1940’s and late 1950’s, hospitals were transformed again, this time turning into office-like buildings to enhance the experience of being there without frills or many features. “It was designed to be really functional and efficient,” said Jesse Rich, director of the Patient Experience and Magnet program at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Many of these rooms had no windows, he noted.
By the middle of the 20th century, the hospital had gone against the imagination of Florence Nightingale, and many of those buildings, or built in imitation of them, are still in use today. “The general hospital is designed as a machine to provide care, but not as a place to heal,” said Shawn Sensor, principal of Safdy Architects, a firm that recently designed a hospital in Cartagena, Colombia. “I think what’s missing is empathy for people as human beings.”
Although Nightingale was working on the evidence of the story that light and ventilation were important, he was right – but it took scientists more than a century to gather quantitative data to back it up. For example, a Major 1984 study Published Science Follows patients after gallbladder surgery. Twenty-five patients with green scenes in their rooms had shorter hospital stays and received less painkillers than 23 patients whose windows faced a brick wall.