Building A Community: Hospitals That Get It
It’s pretty common now to hear about the efforts healthcare providers and designers are making to ensure their facilities both reflect and contribute to the communities outside their doors. But it was only when I started reading through all the articles for our May/June print issue that it dawned on me just how many ways there are to define what being “of the community” means.
On the surface, you have aesthetics; you’re not going to put a Southwestern pueblo motif in downtown Detroit, for example. Especially in longer-term facilities—whether it’s a senior care environment or a pediatric cancer clinic—the goal is to make patients feel at home, and that includes scenes, colors, and materials that honor the locale.
On the other end of the spectrum, the built environment can have a lasting impact on the community that goes well beyond comfort and health. Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group in Boston, for one, thinks we should settle for nothing less. His firm creates hospitals in struggling parts of the world, aiming to improve health outcomes, certainly, but also the infrastructure and economic underpinnings of each region. “We want to see expectations change, so that society expects buildings to have a positive impact on their lives,” he says. “If the last decade was about environmental sustainability, there’s really an effort now toward the social indicators of our built environment. That’s the next era of work that needs to be done.”
Guy A. Medaglia, president and CEO of Chicago Southwest Development Corp., is doing his part on the South Side of Chicago with the reinvented St. Anthony Hospital. In the past five years, he’s turned around the failing nonprofit and is now expanding the campus with an innovative business model that will also bring retail, recreation, and education into this challenged neighborhood.
And in children’s hospitals nationwide—where we’ve seen a host of new projects in the past couple of years—there’s a built-in focus on designing for the family, with the understanding that this most intimate community is an integral part of healing.
Other examples of community thinking can be found all over healthcare projects currently in development around the world. The question is no longer about whether your facility fits into the neighborhood or provides support. The question is, does it go far enough?