An exercise in versatility
Primary care and hospital buildings involve a little bit of everything,” says an article in the excellent British magazine Building Design. “Their foyers and public spaces relate to public buildings in general, their consulting rooms to office suites, waiting rooms are relaxing lounges. For the trend towards single-bed inpatient rooms, think hotels.”
And, writer Elaine Knutt may have added, when it comes to procedure areas, think science and technology, and with children's hospitals, think playground/amusement parks.
The sheer versatility involved in a healthcare design project is one of the more fascinating aspects of the field. I often wonder how designers who specialize in healthcare projects get so good at so many things, or at least how they become accustomed to collaborating with such a diverse cross-section of humanity. By the same token, what is it like for an architect who enters this field from a more homogeneous design world, such as for commercial offices, hospitality, or retail shopping? (I'd be interested in getting responses from readers on this question—see contact information below.)
And then there's another intriguing facet of the field I've just stumbled across over the past couple of months: the healthcare architect as space-saving magician.
Take a look at this issue's Showcase article highlighting The Advocate Lutheran General Hospital Center for Advanced Care (p. 45). There you'll discover designers grappling with 10-foot floor-to-floor spaces to successfully install modern HVAC and mechanical systems. In an upcoming issue, you will see the story of an architectural firm that transformed a 1970s MOB physician office suite into a modern ambulatory surgery center, complete with paperless recordkeeping and telecommunications technology.
In both instances the designers freely confess that, to fit everything in neatly and rationally, they had to make up the design solutions as they went along, working closely with the relevant technical and contracting specialists. It was, as one designer described it, putting the project together on-site. (In reading and hearing about this catch-as-catch-can approach, I didn't feel so bad about my own somewhat, shall we say, improvised home improvement projects, albeit with somewhat less expertise. I am, for example, known to my kids as the master of the pocket-change shim.)
All of which is to say that healthcare design is a richly varied field with which (and within which) to work. The stories of its practitioners and their projects constantly reveal fresh facets and ingenious innovation. The evolving technologies, interior design features, space planning concepts, and materials used both inside and out in these projects will keep HEALTHCARE DESIGN humming for years to come, monthly issues and all. HD
Richard L. Peck, Editor-in-Chief
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