When you think of hospitals, what comes to mind? For many, the first instinct is to think of rectangular buildings, bright white lights, and a sterile and cold environment – a place one visits begrudgingly. Nobody is ever overjoyed at the prospect of visiting a hospital, a place associated with discomfort and illness. However, research has shown that patient-centric design is critical to a positive experience for visitors and employees.
Today, architects all over the world are deep-diving into redefining the architecture of hospitals, and how they can become spaces of healing and rejuvenation, and reduce the negative experiences and stress that comes with visiting a hospital.
Below are 15 such international hospitals that are changing how we experience healthcare facilities.
1. The Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children, United Kingdom (2019)
This research center, designed by Stanton Williams, is the world’s first purpose-built center dedicated to pediatric research into rare diseases, that provides research workspace, laboratories, and outpatient clinics for young people. The building design celebrates the often hidden, yet important, work of clinicians through the transparent façade of glazing and terracotta fins, that allows visual interaction between inside and outside.
The interiors are designed with concrete and European Oak that make for a ‘non-clinical’ atmosphere, while the interior planning and natural light from the glass ceiling and façade create a sense of openness and calm for the patients and their families.
2. New Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Australia (2014)
Designed by Lyons and Conrad Gargett, this 12-level specialist pediatric teaching hospital is designed using a ‘salutogenic’ approach – which incorporates design strategies that directly support patient wellbeing. The planning is based on the concept of a ‘living tree’.
A network of double-height spaces or ‘branches’ radiates from two atria ‘trunks’, which then extend to frame portals with views towards the city. Green spaces are also part of the healing environment. The brightly colored exterior of green and purple fins is inspired by native Bougainvillea plantings in the nearby parklands.
3. Bendigo Hospital, Australia (2017)
Designed by Silver Thomas Hanley and Bates Smart, this hospital is the largest regional hospital development in Victoria. The building design is inspired by the vernacular architecture and the natural environment of the surrounding communities, and aims to promote patient and staff wellbeing.
Nature plays a large part in this mission and is integrated into the project through the medium of landscaped gardens, courtyards, green roofs, and balconies to create a tranquil internal environment. The use of timber provides warmth to the interiors, unlike the sterile, cold spaces of a regular hospital.
A woven timber ceiling provides dappled sunlight in the interiors, and the building façade of reflective glass and concrete panels provides views to the outside, while bringing in large amounts of sunlight.
4. The Gandel Wing, Cabrini Malvern Hospital, Australia (2019)
This 7-story addition to the Cabrini Malvern Hospital is built with a design approach of improving the patient wellbeing and experience. The external façade of natural slatted terracotta provides the patients with clear views of nature outside, maintains privacy from the nearby residential buildings, brings in soft natural light, and also visually connects the new wing to the surrounding masonry buildings.
The combination of the material palette of wood and white on the interiors, and ambient natural and artificial lighting allows for a peaceful environment within the hospital.
5. Haraldsplass Hospital, Norway (2018)
The new wing for the Hospital, designed by C. F. Møller Architects, lies between the Ulriken mountain and Møllendalselven River. The façade of oak cladding in white fiber concrete visually connects the hospital to the surrounding buildings, and also creates a welcoming entrance for visitors.
As opposed to the traditional design of hospitals, where long corridors are the main method of getting around, this hospital has no long corridors. Instead, the wards are distributed around two large atriums that also bring in ample daylight.
6. Adamant Hospital, France (2019)
Designed by Seine Design, this psychiatric hospital is docked by the river and consists of spaces like therapy workshops and staff offices. Regular weather conditions like rain, sun, or wind translate into interesting experiences in the hospital – like the interplay of shadow and light from the shutters, or the rocking of the building itself.
The movable wooden shutters control the daylighting and provide strong visual connectivity to the river and surroundings, which results in a comfortable and peaceful internal environment for the patients.
7. Rigshospitalet Hospital North Wing, Denmark (2020)
Designed by 3XN and LINK Arkitektur, the North Wing is a 7-floor extension to the Hospital. The building is designed as a series of folded V-structures connected by a main ‘artery’ route, the design of which is inspired by the cardiogram graph lines.
Patient well-being is central to the design – the glass façade and ceiling bring in large amounts of daylight, a variety of artwork adds color and vibrancy to the interiors, the green surroundings create a peaceful environment for the patients, and the façade of light stone and glass provide a welcoming appearance to the public.
8. Umeda Hospital, Japan (2015)
Kengo Kuma & Associates, who were responsible for the existing maternity and pediatric hospital, returned to design the addition as well. The 4-story front of the hospital was replaced with a 5-story L-shaped addition. The 5-story steel-clad structure is fronted by a 1-story wood-clad main entrance. The 1-story storefront’s exterior – with wood louvers and trapezoid sloping steel roof that extends over the sidewalk create a welcoming and pedestrian-friendly entrance.
The interiors use cedarwood in the flooring, walls, and ceiling to create a warm and comfortable environment for the patients. The signages are printed on cloth that covers posts, which add to the softness of the interiors.
9. EKH Children Hospital, Thailand (2019)
Integrated Field has designed this hospital to ease the discomfort that children feel when going to the hospital. The hospital façade consists of pastel-colored metal screens with perforations in the form of animal shapes.
The architects have used various elements to create a friendly environment for the children – pastel-colored spaces, indirect and soft lighting, curved forms used as the design language in doorways, furniture, and windows, playgrounds in the waiting rooms, a giant slide in the middle of the entrance hall – also visible from the glass external façade, and animal-themed patient rooms – all to make the kids’ visit to the hospital an enjoyable experience.
10. General Hospital of Niger, Niger (2016)
Designed by CITIC Architectural Design Institute (CADI), this large-scale public hospital is designed to withstand the extreme weather conditions of Niger, whose 80% land area is covered by the Sahara Desert. The local economy, culture, and environment have also influenced the design to make it low cost, good quality, and durable.
‘Halls’ or buildings separated by department or functionality, interlock and form courtyards, and are connected by covered passages and walkways. Elements like small windows in external walls, shading panels, and ‘jali’ walls provide sun protection. Thermal insulating layers made of prefab concrete panels in the roof reduce heat transmission.
‘Tyrol’ style exterior wall – which is the local traditional construction method – is used on the wall surfaces for durability and easy maintenance. Worship halls which double as waiting spaces are scattered across the hospital, as Islam is the dominant religion here.
11. Pars Hospital, Iran (2016)
New Wave Architecture’s aim was to change the perception of healthcare architecture in Iran, and alleviate negative emotions like stress and anxiety that patients and employees typically experience due to the cold and clinical architectural design of existing hospitals. They designed various blocks connected by atriums and porches that created public-private spaces, allowed ample light in, and created visually interactive spaces throughout the hospital.
Careful attention was given to the interiors – colorful walls and flooring, comfortable furniture, indoor plants, and brightly lit spaces are all meant to create a soothing environment. The dynamic double-skin façade of travertine and glass creates a lively, hopeful, and inviting appearance for visitors.
12. Teletón Infant Oncology Clinic, Mexico (2013)
Designed by Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, this hospital was developed to support children with cancer. The site itself, with its undulated topography, provides extensive views of the city. The building consists of nine conjoint volumes, made up of a series of columns, organized in a circular manner.
Each volume is differentiated by color and inclination angle. The form is derived from the concept of cell regeneration, where each volume is a ‘cell’ forming a chain of cells. The façade informs the interiors, where each volume serves a different department and purpose.
The colorful columns allow for column-free interiors, reduce excess solar gain, and create a dynamic, playful, and colorful façade that is visually pleasing for children. The colorful interiors and choice of furniture resemble a play school rather than a hospital, which puts the children at ease.
13. The New Hospital Tower Rush University Medical Center, USA (2012)
Designed by Perkins and Will, the hospital consists of a rectangular 6-story base, connected to an existing treatment facility, which houses diagnostic and treatment facilities topped by a 6-story curvilinear bed tower. The geometry, while unusual, is in response to the site conditions, and maximizes views and natural light for patients, while also creating an efficient and effective layout.
Nurse stations located along the core of the star-shaped tower encourage quick access of the staff to patients. Facilities like a roof garden with sculptural skylights, and lounge areas for staff and patients creates a comfortable environment for all visitors.
14. Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care, USA (2015)
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ designed Buerger Center is the first healthcare building of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s new South Campus. It consists of a 12-story building with a 6-story wing, both consisting of stacked floors with a rippled façade, but the building is rippled on one side to create playful lobbies, and rectilinear on the other where clinics are located.
The façade comprises glazing and primary colors – which is attractive and uplifting for children and their families. Some great features to help reduce the stress for patients are – an interior material palette of warm wood and bright colors, curved forms, learn and play waiting areas, medicinal gardens, a rooftop garden for rehabilitation and play, and a landscaped plaza.
15. Christ Hospital Joint and Spine Center, USA (2015)
Designed by SOM, this 7-story orthopedic care facility is a modern addition to the Christ Hospital’s Cincinnati medical campus. SOM worked closely with patients, medical professionals, and hospital staff while designing the hospital, resulting in a space that supports the healing process of patients.
Spaces are designed keeping patient comfort in mind – floor to ceiling glazing brings in plentiful daylight, rooms have a residential character with sufficient storage, and flexible seating for visitors and family is provided. Decentralized nursing servers placed next to patient rooms disperse activity across the patient floors.
Breakout spaces and outdoor green spaces provide respite to visitors, patients, and staff. The exterior façade of red brick and limestone is a nod to the vernacular architecture of the neighborhood.