Experienced readers of HEALTHCARE DESIGN know that every September we publish what is known as our Architectural Showcase issue, a colorful compendium of the latest and greatest built projects in the acute care realm. This September's will be a barn burner—a record-breaking 161 projects will be published. Any doubts about healthcare being one of the hottest areas in contemporary Architecture were dispelled by this year's creative eruption.

Healthcare design is also showing signs of maturation. Case in point: Although the September Showcases have always been juried reviews, we will be publishing for the first time some of the jurors’ overall reactions, as emerged from a panel discussion conducted shortly after the judging—and it's not all sweetness and light. The jurors—a mix of architects, interior designers, and hospital executives—took a critical stance on what they saw. Having monitored this discussion, I have the impression that the healthcare design field has developed sufficient standards by now to hold submitters clearly accountable for how well they meet them. The discussion also pointed up the communications difficulties that submitters can encounter in published reviews of this type.

You'll see the details of that discussion in the September issue. For now let me give you a précis of some of the major lines of the discussion: More design energy seems to be going into the public areas of the hospital—the lobbies, the atria, the exteriors—than into the patient rooms and clinical areas. Many of the exteriors are “high-powered, impressive, modern cathedrals” (not a bad thing in itself). In the project submissions we receive, patient areas and clinical areas, such as ORs, are typically shortchanged photographically; i.e., entrants are telling more in their text than they're showing in their pictures. Some recent additions to much older buildings show elegant restraint and faithfulness to the original designs. The best projects integrate the design throughout the hospital—from the exterior to the public spaces to the clinical areas to the patient rooms, all attempting to maximize the patient experience. (There was not an oversupply of these projects, however.) The all-private room drive is commendable but doesn't account for the complexities of rural hospital economics or the care needs of certain chronically ill patients who might welcome the company.

As I mentioned, all of this will be elaborated upon in the published discussion by the 13 judges who performed yeoman service this spring reviewing these projects. Then you will have a chance to see them for yourself; 161 projects all deemed to offer something of value to the reader. Perhaps you will take away lessons and impressions that none of us have even thought of. It's a good bet that after poring over our September issue, you'll have a firmer grasp of what's hot and what's not—and why—in healthcare design. HD



RICHARD L. PECK