ASID: Integrating faith into medical design
According to Wikipedia, the percentage of American Christians–76%; Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim 4–5%; and 15% have no religious beliefs or affiliations.
In the 1900s more than a third of American hospitals were started by women of religious vocations per Say Little, Do Much by: Sioban Nelson. Now, this is not the case, but the need for patients, family, and staff to have a space to worship and meditate is needed more than ever in the acute care environment.
The United States Military realizes this need on its bases and has a Christian chapel with catholic and protestant service, a synagogue, and meditation spaces. Airports have meditation spaces primarily for the Muslim work force.
The largest challenge is integrating the different faiths with their unique characteristics into one space without offending or making the space a conference room. The best solutions I have seen are nondenominational chapels with nondistinct stained glass, folding seats, lectern, etc.
Muslim prayer spaces should be separated if possible as mats are needed for the floor versus chairs.
Some of the items that need to be considered prior to making your plans are the architectural differences by religion:
- position (e.g., facing Mecca, etc.)
- seating or mats
- signage (is it called a chapel, temple, meditation space, etc.?)
- notifications for different services and appropriate dress
- square footage requirements
Understand that you will not be able to please everyone. The best we can do as designers is offer a quiet comfortable space for the soul to lift prayers and release pain.