The healing power of Architecture

27/05/2020

The healing power of Architecture

At first, saying that architecture also helps to heal may sound quite ambitious and even unrealistic. However, if we take some time to analyse what this art can really bring to a patient, this idea is not crazy at all.

Beforehand, it is compulsory to explain that it is not the first time that architecture and the recovery from illness have been linked, as it is an idea that became popular in the 1980’s. In 1986, researcher Gabriela Campari already explained that physical well-being is not only limited to health industry, but is also related to other areas, as it could be architecture.

Many years earlier, in the 1930s, there were architects who already considered healthcare when a building was being designed. For example, they realized how important was air circulation and natural light. It was Berthold Lubetkin or Alvar Aalto the ones who, under these ideas, built the Finsbury Health Centre in London and the Paimio Sanatorium in Finland, respectively. Barcelona’s ‘Dispensario Antituberculoso’, built in the 1930s, took these concepts into account, focused on the health of the patients.

Therefore, to a greater or lesser extent, there has always been interest in architecture to contribute to patient’s recovery. Another example, is architect Daniel Bonilla who really believes that  the recovery of patients is related to design, as creating friendlier places helps to cope with the disease. Bonilla explains that moving from designing purely functional hospitals to ones with more humane concepts has been the biggest change in recent decades, as it creates a more pleasant atmosphere. This change of paradigm was what led to the concept of 'Wellness Architecture'.

Moreover, there are several ideas that bring this concept together and shape it. For example, Sonia Cedrés de Bello, in her article 'Therapeutic effects of design in health facilities', explains the importance of light, according to a study carried out in Pennsylvania on the dimensions of hospitalisation room windows. It was determined that light plays a key role in the recovery times of patients have gone through surgery.

Another one is nature. Researchers in Canada noted that patients located in a building with landscaped courtyards, required up to 40% less pain medication and sleeping pills, compared to those located in the older part of the hospital. The room colours can also help to reduce stress not only for the patients themselves, but also for their families. For example, green, according to chromotherapy, is a sedative colour that helps to lower blood pressure and calm nervousness.

Architect Michael Murphy has always advocate for the concept of Wellness Architecture, as he understands it as one of the engines of change, always linked to sustainability.  "Buildings make visible our personal and collective aspirations as a society. Great architecture can give us hope; architecture can cure". We can find on Youtube many of his lectures, which are a good way to go deeper into this idea.

Certainly, it is a subject of interest that can be simply summarise in the benefits of humanising architecture by placing people at the heart of each project. In this scenario architecture makes sense as its benefits are multiplied.

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