Hospitals are not domestic buildings. They will never feel like home to a child – kids are very conscious of place and scale. We design environments which support the child and family as completely as possible to relieve trauma, fear and boredom. Children’s hospitals should accommodate the presence of the family – so often the key to a child’s comfort and reassurance – in all treatment and waiting areas, on the wards or in adjacent overnight accommodation.
We believe that the design of children’s hospitals should be based on universal architectural principles informed by an expert knowledge of clinical planning. Healthcare architecture has often mystified the design process and produced complicated and impersonal buildings, which then require self-conscious interior design. We can demonstrate from our work that there is a more humanist and challenging approach that understands how to break down the perceived scale of very large buildings and make environments which children can recognise.
Hospitals can be designed in shallow plan form without the loss of any clinical efficiency. Even the most complex and technically demanding departments, such as radiotherapy or imaging, are capable of architectural resolution. Patients, staff and the public can move throughout the hospital in both the public and the clinical areas within spaces which are animated by sunlight, shadow and landscape. Waiting areas can all look onto gardens, courtyards or landscape. Art can distract, engage and form an important part of a child’s recovery.
The staff should be able to work in conditions that are comparable with those enjoyed in the commercial sector. A good working environment is a safe patient environment. The power of modern medicine enables many children to grow into adulthood with a chronic disease. New children’s hospitals must accommodate use from birth to adulthood and create an appropriate environment for different age groups and changing needs.