Does it take a rocket scientist to prove that a well-appointed room, with sunlight and a view and accommodation for family and friends, is an effective antidote to illness? Seems like common sense to me, but for decades the healthcare industry and the architects who served it turned their backs on such simple measures. What brilliant line of thought made our hospitals into sunless mazes of vinyl surfacing, fluorescent lighting, and beige-colored everything? Fortunately, new ideas are taking hold.
The three projects featured in this issue of the PRODUCT SPEC GUIDE—Polshek and Ballinger's Weill Greenberg Center in New York, ZGF and H+L's Children's Hospital in Aurora, Colo., and OWP/P's Froedtert Cancer Center in Milwaukee—exemplify the latest thinking on patient well-being and quality of care as they relate to the physical environment. Many of the architects' solutions were informed by the emerging principles of evidence-based design, a new math of environmental psychology, medical research, and hospital administration.
Architects will never be able to make a colonoscopy enjoyable, but they can do a great deal to calm a patient's nerves before a procedure and to facilitate the recovery process. Architects can even help save lives. As Amanda Kolson Hurley observes in “Room for the Family” (page 11), orienting rooms so that beds and equipment are always in the same place can minimize the disorientation of doctors and nurses and save critical seconds in an emergency.
Organizations like the AIA's Academy of Architecture for Health, the Concord, Calif.–based nonprofit Center for Health Design, and the international Healthcare Without Harm coalition are championing the cause, and they deserve the profession's appreciation and support.
On the surface, it seems silly—even infuriating—that the healthcare industry requires evidence that good design is a worthwhile investment. Shouldn't the benefits of sunlight be self-evident? But even if it takes a legion of environmental psychologists to make the case, the effort will be worthwhile. Lives are at stake, quite literally.
Editor in Chief