The cancer treatment facility has been awarded with a National Design Award for Healthcare by The American Institute of Architects. This award is well-deserved, due to the positive effects the building’s design has on patients.
CO Architects designed the building with primarily the patients in mind. The architects incorporated feedback from the patients into their design, including a courtyard, the use of natural building materials, and neutral earth tones. These features serve to provide a soothing, relaxing atmosphere for patients under treatment for various illnesses. The architects felt that it was important to provide a view of mountains or gardens from every spot at the facility. According to the principal architect of CO Architects, Stephen Yundt:
“Research has shown humans are hardwired to experience nature as restorative. Having a connection to nature is calming, reassuring to the patient. There’s the main healing garden. The main feature in that garden is an arroyo or a dry creek bed. The bridges are symbolic. They suggest as you walk across those bridges, you’re leaving one world and entering another. You’re leaving the parking lot and going into a world that provides hope and healing and inspiration.”
In a world full of cold, grey, institutional medical facilities, it is nice to hear about an architect who catered a project to the comfort and well-being of the patients who have to stay there.
The Arizona Cancer Center at University Medical Center is not the only recent example of this patient-oriented design. There is a heightened focus around the country on redesigning medical institutions with the patients in mind. In addition to the patients, the staff also benefits from such design. This idea is called evidence-based design, which focuses on improving patient care by finding design solutions. Evidence-based design focuses on how the physical environment can influence healing, including practical safety improvements as well as pleasing aesthetic features.
Some of the architectural features stemming from evidence-based design are increased use of natural light and private rooms with large windows that allow the patients to sense day and night. Sensing day and light is believed to help relieve distress. Other features include outdoor space for patients, views of nature, spa-like elements, and open, airy spaces. The new breast health center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA provides sounds of flowing water and birds chirping, along with a tree-like hanging sculpture and colored-glass vases with soft lighting.
Evidence-based design does have its critics. Some write-it off as being based upon unnecessary “lavish perks”, often used strictly for competitive and marketing reasons. Some critics question spending money on aesthetic features because it is difficult to prove their benefits. Critics question the validity of the studies that have “proven” the value of evidence-based design, writing them off for not being large-scale clinical trials.
However, many say that the still-emerging idea of evidence-based design has been shown to improve patient recovery and reduce stress on staff while being cost effective at the same time. Hundreds of studies have linked elements of design to better patient outcomes. This idea will likely become even more prevalent in the future.
More information can be found at www.healthdesign.org.