HKS: A Time of Transformation
Our profession is transforming. The traditional definition of “architect” can no longer be described by the B141 definition of Basic Services. Over the last decade, the healthcare architectural community has changed as much as any. We have adopted dozens of terms, tools, trends, and research initiatives in an attempt to inform our clients and describe our process and better our designs.
Whether this is good, bad, or indifferent to the profession, I leave to you. Although, I admit that injecting new ideas, new services, and new processes into the way we practice has energized me and motivated me to become better and more knowledgeable. Understanding clinical processes, organizational strategies, and business drivers are important to our clients.
I would also argue that, while good-intentioned, these initiatives and anecdotes can collectively blur our solutions and confound our clients if not used and applied properly. Just think of some of the terms related to healthcare design that we throw around these days:
Patient-centered, patient-focused, family-centered, family-focused, evidence-based design, evidence-informed design, value-based design, quality outcomes, positive outcomes, maximum sustainability, universal rooms, acuity adaptable rooms, patient safety, standardization, room handedness, right-sizing, holistic environment, healing environment, access to nature, healing garden, positive distractions, wayfinding, EMR-friendly design, smart hospital, same-handed rooms, hybrids, in-board rooms, outboard rooms, nested rooms, medically integrated robotics, translational research, translational medicine, integrated care delivery, Lean design, best practice, value proposition, process improvement, continuous improvement, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, Toyota Production System, Lean construction, Integrated Project Delivery, BIM, LEED ...
Don’t some of these terms mean the same thing? Do we really need so many fashionable phrases and terms? Are we bombarding our clients with too much jargon? Are we speaking the same language as our clients? Are these catch phrases becoming the identity of our specialty? Could these be taking the architect out of the architecture?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe many of the concepts are valuable ideas and can justifiably inform, enhance, and help create better designs. Some of them even come from our clients.
I am not arguing against research, process, and innovation. My firm is proudly on the forefront of many of these movements. Used appropriately and realistically, these ideas, concepts, and processes can make us better architects and inform better design solutions.
Used properly, they make us not just architects, but trusted advisors to our clients. However, if used without a consensus on definition and if they are applied incorrectly in the inappropriate context, they can become noise that can drown out the best design solutions.
We should embrace these terms and ideas if they make for better design outcomes. But, first, it is our responsibility as architects to understand these ideas and know how to apply them so they lead us to better architectural solutions. To provide the best service and communicate our design solutions clearly, we must be sure we share a common language with our clients and not overuse or misuse trendy terms or processes.
They should not take the architect out of the architecture. What do you think?