Interior design for patient protection
Much needs consideration when equipping hospitals
Jain Malkin has been working for more than 35 years in interior design for medical facilities. She is a founder member of the American Association of Healthcare Interior Designers (AAHID) and taught for twelve years in the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. But her research for her new book, A Visual Reference to Evidence-based Design, taught her a good many things.
Three new hospitals, which Malkin visited in turn, provided the impetus for this book, for she saw, in all three buildings, that design ended at the doors to the wards. “Once I passed through the lobby, it was as if I was in a 1970s or 1980s hospital. I saw a lot of white walls and a very institutional appearance.” says Malkin. The rooms were sufficiently equipped from a medical point of view, but there was neither colour on the walls, nor any facilities for placing flowers or greeting cards.
Malkin calls this sort of design mediocre, and asks whether the interior designers did not know how important it is to bring colours, textures and a view of the natural world ? if necessary through pictures on the walls ? into hospitals. Malkin says small budgets are just an excuse: “You can do some pretty terrific design with an average fee, but it takes more time to do it – and more thought.”
One thing is certain, however ? the top priority is the safety of the patients. “The new imperative for designers is that they have to first design for patient safety and than look at the others things.”
For what use is the finest design if it fails to follow the sterility regulations of a hospital? So interior designers must ask themselves: can the staff get things properly clean here? Will germs collect in this fissure? They need to learn more about how viruses pass from one room to another and know the part which surfaces play in this process, on chairs for instance. “We have to – as design professionals – help hospitals deal with this. They cannot do it on their own and we have to be knowledgeable about it.”
Malkin shows a snapshot, for which she carried out hundreds of interviews with architects and managers on the medical side and conducted prolonged research. The result is a reference work, a basis for the work of interior designers in the medical field ? and not just in the United States. When it comes to building hospitals, the USA is enjoying a boom at the moment.
So the results of Malkin’s research could be put into practice straight away.
Photos 1, 2 and 3 © Jain Malkin, Inc.