At different points in my career, I have been asked if I enjoyed designing hospitals and why not design museums or houses …
People encounter hospitals during some of the most important moments in their lives. Our experiences are intense and focused, involving life, death, sickness, healing and discovery. It is an honor and a privilege to bring architecture to such important life thresholds when we are most vulnerable. Design can play a significant role in helping to define the quality of the overall experience and improve patient outcomes and staff efficacy. When hospitals are thoughtfully designed, filled with natural light and with connections to nature, they can allow for an immersive encounter with architecture and its impact is immediate and significant. No other building type can give you this type of feedback, so consistently and so meaningfully.
Historically, our great cities have been defined by great institutions for government, culture, religion, education and health. These buildings are the legacy of a great society and are an indication of our values. In today’s world, museums have become iconic in their form and provide stature for our cities. In the past, hospitals were sited prominently upon a hilltop to optimize access to natural light and cross ventilation. Good design principles and a patient’s well-being were entwined. More often than not, hospitals currently present an aggregated and resultant form disconnected from the city and from the time honored values that define great architecture and great public buildings. I believe there are many opportunities to redefine this relationship and I take great pride in how our hospitals do this.
We choose to go to Museums for a quiet, reflective respite, an inward looking oasis that is removed from the outside world. We encounter hospitals out of the necessity to provide or receive care. We go because we have to and as a result, more people experience hospitals on a daily basis, providing a captive audience to demonstrate architecture’s impact and its role in society. There is no more important building in society to demonstrate art, sustainability and healthy living.
I also enjoy the complexity and richness of the design problem. A hospital is like a small city with its main streets, parks, neighborhoods and communities that try to capture as much nature and natural light as possible. This becomes particularly important in the design of children’s hospitals, which often define an important period of a child’s “childhood” experience.
Architecture is our most public art and hospitals are important civic buildings that provide a fully transparent lens into the core values of our society and its spirit, health, compassion and well-being. It is an honor to play a role in the design of spaces that influence and affect people’s lives in such profoundly important ways.