The Art Of Healing

From Virginia Postrel's article in this month's Atlantic:

Mounting clinical evidence suggests that better design can improve patients’ healthnot to mention their morale. But the one-sixth of the American economy devoted to health care hasn’t kept up with the rest of the economy’s aesthetic imperative, leaving patients to wonder, as a diabetes blogger puts it, “why hospital clinic interiors have to feel so much like a Motel 6 from the ’70s.”

A Hyatt from the early ’80s might be more accurate. The United States is in the midst of a hospital-building boom, with some $200 billion expected to be spent on new facilities between 2004 and 2014. Although more spacious and sunlit than the 50-year-old boxes they often replace, even new medical centers tend to concentrate their amenities in public areas, the way hotels used to feature lavish atriums but furnish guest rooms with dirt-hiding floral bedspreads and fake-wood desks. Hospital lobbies may now have gardens, waterfalls, and piano music, but that doesn’t mean their patient rooms, emergency departments, or imaging suites are also well designed. “Except for the computers you see, it’s like a 1980s hospital,” says Jain Malkin, a San Diego–based interior designer and the author of several reference books on health-care design. “The place where patients spend their time 24/7 is treated as if it’s back-of-the-house.”