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12 Dec 2016   admin

Architecture that’s built to heal

A great deal of architectural talent and energy goes into designing iconic, sculptural buildings, which can add to the aesthetic identity of a place but are often far removed from most peoples daily life, and the issues which concern them – such as their health.

At the same time, many of the structures designed for health purposes, especially in developing countries, were achieving the exact opposite. Patients visiting badly-designed hospitals were returning home with new, more virulent infections or not at all. Healing was either delayed or incomplete and this was in part due to the architectural failings of the buildings.

Public health practitioners began to challenge architects to come up with building designs that would actually help people heal. Hospitals where patients felt better just by being there, with great natural ventilation and views through windows. The use of natural light and airflow also helped reduce the hospitals carbon footprints, contributing to a healthier environment for all.

Soon the boundaries of healing architecture were being pushed, and architects began designing buildings that can heal in a wider sense. Schools that were safe, welcoming havens of learning. Community centres that could be places where focal points for disparate groups to come together.

While the initial focus was on the environmental footprint of healing architecture, it soon grew to include consideration of the human handprint of each building. This came about thanks to the emergence of the lo-fab or local fabrication movement, a recognition that local people were best placed to contribute ideas and skills to the creation of locally-appropriate structures. In other words, the process of construction itself became a form of healing.

By hiring locally, architects could make use of the skills of carpenters and stonemasons. Local labour replaced machinery, fostering community spirit in places which have undergone acute social trauma, such as Rwanda.

Sourcing buildings materially reduced transport costs, and in many cases permitted the repurposing of discarded materials. Training is also a key component of healing architecture passing on skills to secure future livelihoods.

People living with chronic medical conditions often feel robbed of their dignity, while the reverse comes true when they are healed. The final pillar of this lo-fab approach is that healing architecture must involve investing in dignity.

In this way, healing architecture and its creation can help close the wounds of entire societies, especially when past injustices are openly addressed and commemorated through the design and construction of memorials.

The pioneers of healing architecture believed that building design could be a transformative engine for change, rather than merely the creation of taller or more sinuous sculptures.  Instead, it could function as a statement of societys aspirations, and a genuine intent to heal not just individual patients, but entire communities.

Watch the TED Talk





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