Today, Health care facilities are designed in a very compact and artificial manner. This may be due to the capitalist economy, clients and smaller lands to build on. There are fewer windows with views to the outdoors, too much artificial lighting and ventilation, no green spaces, lack of interaction between people, all of which are opposites of a healthy mind and body. Drugs and treatments can help cure diseases but the process or length of this healing process has become worse over the years. People fear hospitals (Bauer, 2014).Architecture can play a major role in changing this scenario.
It cannot cure patients but it can help in creating a better environment where patients spend a lot of their time. Access to fresh air, natural lighting, open spaces, greener, social community spaces that promote a happy mind and contribute positivity towards healing. This paper draws upon the concepts of Wilbert M. Gesler, a renowned author in the field of environmental psychology, suggesting modern ways to design better spaces and creating a healing environment (Bauer, 2014).II. HEALING ENVIRONMENTi. IntroductionMore than 90% of the people today lead unhealthy lives, not due to sickness, but unhealthy in their minds and spirits. This is the difference between a healthy life (in mind, body and soul) and a life without sickness. A hospital treats patients but does not cure them to the fullest. Many institutes ignore the moods created inside hospitals, indoor environments treatment environment with respect to patients. It is important for healthcare facilities to not just focus on treatment but also how to cure sickness and help people live life to the fullest on day to day basis (Williams, 2015).The idea of a healing environment or healing space has been explored for many year by various cultures and traditions. Designing a healthcare facility is a complex task as per most healthcare designers as it involves both functional and psychological aspects. Healthcare designers are required to consider various requirements provided by the regional healthcare authority.
In order to fulfil this requirements less attention is given to the ultimate aim of creating a healing environment. Modern hospitals designs, equipped with technology for diagnostics, curing and treating have contributed to stress, depression and anxiety which have a harmful effect on health to patients and staff (Kreitzer, 2008).The components or elements that make up a healing environment is defined by various factors and looked upon in different ways which can be a study in itself. One way to find out what are the factors that contribute in creating a healing environment is by at past. Healing is a process that involves not just physically curing but dealing with the body as a whole. “Healing is not the same as curing. A person can be healed without being cured” as quoted by Bryan Lawson. For example, people suffering from cancer that does not have a cure can learn to be at peace with themselves and even live a full life. Wilbert M. Gesler, breaks down healing spaces into a combination of natural, built, and social environments all of which are important to the healing capabilities of a space (Gesler, 2003). ii. Natural environmentAncient and modern science both have proven that nature triggers the human mind. It helps us live a healthier, happier, and smarter life. As per various ancient mythologies and scripts (Egyptian, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Buddhism), the classical elements of nature are responsible for the existence and function of all matter i.e.; Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space (Astrobix, n.d.). Each of these elements have an influence over our senses that are stimulate our mood, attitudes, behavior and wellbeing. Spending time in wilderness can help relieve stress and make us feel relaxed and divert our minds away from the city life. Virtually looking at nature can help too.
Humans will always be driven towards nature not because modern science says it is good for us, but because nature itself makes us feel better (Williams, 2015). The biologist, L.J Henderson, has analyzed how humans are made of up of water and we are always driven towards nature, because we come from nature (Alexander, 1977). Human connection to nature and its philosophy for good health has a long history. Evidence suggests we can enhance our health by staying in touch with animals, plants, landscapes, and wilderness experiences. Animals are now a part of many households and the bond between human and animal have changed over the years (Alexander, 1977). Flowers and plants are good for the senses and help refresh our minds. Hospitals incorporated gardens initially but these vanished over the years due to modern designs and compact site plots. Incorporating nature or visual effects of nature can prove to be very therapeutic in healthcare facilities (Coussens, 2001).iii. Built environmentThe built environment, includes buildings and other man made constructions. It has shown to have an influence on the healing process. The experience by the people of their surroundings affects their moods and emotions and the ways in which they react. Most aspects of human made environments affects the senses. The built space must create a physically healthy space. A healing environment with appropriate physical aspects would indirectly contribute to patients’ health such as shorter length of stay, reduced stress, increased patients satisfaction and others.
Noise control, air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, communication, color, texture, privacy and view to nature are among the physical factors which have to be considered in healthcare design (Coussens, 2001). Role of the architect in healthcare designThe collaboration between medical practitioners and architects has slowly started developing with the increase in demand for effective healthcare architecture. Architecture companies are encouraging architects who are involved in healthcare design to have a dual degree in medicine are architecture that will help them design hospitals with a better understanding. Based on evidence research and analysis through various case studies, Brayan Lawson in his article “Healing Architecture” has produced a tool known as ASPECT (A Staff and Patient Environmental Calibration Tool) that states 8 parameters to be used while design a healthcare institution (Lawson, 2010). Privacy, company and dignity The design must allow patients to control their level of privacy. When they want to be alone or with others. For example, if a patient is under stress and needs silence but a community gathering is taking place nearby may affect the patient negatively (Lawson, 2010).Comfort and control There are other factors that also must be in control of the patient such as lighting, heating, ventilation. If the whole hospital runs on central heating or cooling system may not be the right solution. One patient may have different thermal comfort than the other. Helping them control how much heating they want or how much ventilation they want provides a lot of comfort (Lawson, 2010). Legibility of place (coherence) Creating confusing corridors or floor plans may lead to frustration. When a person is in the hospital, he/she would want to find something in the hospital easily instead of going through a maze to reach their destination. Therefore, legibility in space design is very important (Lawson, 2010). Interior appearanceInteriors where patients or their families walk around or stay at must have good aesthetics. Looking at negative paintings or dull colors may influence their moods in a negative way and slow down the process of healing (Lawson, 2010). ViewsPatients, staff and other must have good views to the outdoors. A window that overlooks a garbage collecting alley may not be the solution. Rather, a window opening towards a green courtyard with plants and birds will have a positive influence on the patient (Lawson, 2010).
Nature and outdoors A view or contact with nature can have a great influence on patients. For example, during the winter season, we are deprived of natural sunlight, green trees and flowers which has a negative impact on our moods. By just creating spaces that have access to the outdoors or even painting depicting nature can influence therapy (Lawson, 2010). Facilities and staffHospitals are not just occupied by patients but also staff. Providing them with entertainment and relaxation lounges can help them perform their duties better (Lawson, 2010). iv. Social environment Humans are social animals. Therefore, we must interact with other people from time to time as part of our lives. Social interaction plays a major role in healing too. Every individual who occupies a healthcare facilities – patients, their families, doctors, nurses and other staff – as part of this social environment. These relationships have immense influence on the healing process and therefore they must be enhanced. The idea that good social relationships was essential to providing healing environments was the central idea in the therapeutic community, and was incorporated into therapy in World War 2. This can be done by removing the hierarchies among the people involved. Equality among patients, treating them in the same way and encouraging community gatherings can promote healing. Patients who might be treated differently can result in a negative state of mind and will slower there healing process (Osei, 2014).
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