Healthcare Design at WAD

Tuesday 02 Oct 2012

Jean Mah, Perkins + Will: "Healthcare is one of the most difficult and challenging architectural sector possible"

Swiftly following the highly engaging debate on Education design at World Architecture Day was a fantastic panel of Healthcare experts comprised of Sunand Prasad from Penoyre & Prasad, Jean Mah of Perkins & Will in Los Angeles and Catherine Zeliotis from Stantec Anshen + Allen with Buro Happold’s Andy Parker as host.

Parker opened the sector debate with the shocking statistic that 25% of 16 year olds will live to the age of 100, putting even more pressure on the Healthcare sector to meet the needs of a growing global population. Next to the podium was Jean Mah, Principal at Perkins + Will in LA, who gave a detailed presentation of her firm’s latest project in Nairobi, the Kenyan Women and Children’s Wellness Centre which was the 2011 winner of the WAN AWARD Healthcare Sector completed category.

Throughout her account of the 50,000 sq m scheme, Mah stressed the importance of context and the introduction of sustainability on various levels. Despite being ‘compounded by the fact that we’re working in a rural situation and infrastructure doesn’t exist’, she confirmed that the project is progressing well, affirming the ‘need to be resilient and learn how to have as little impact as possible on the environment’.

In a frank discussion, Mah asserted that ‘healthcare is one of the most difficult and challenging architecture sectors possible’ and that ‘the rate of improvement to technology and innovation radically affects the quality and design experience’. This view was shared by our other panellists who felt that it was imperative that this sector in particular benefit from spatially intelligent architecture.

Another point well made was from Catherine Zeliotis who raised the need for ‘personalised treatment’, interestingly a point raised by this year’s WAN AWARDS Education jury who selected Woods Bagot’s St Vincents O’Brien Centre in Sydney as the winner primarily for its human scale and personalised units. Zeliotis stressed ‘we need to remember the human touch as we’re doing all this to promote wellness’. This was backed up by Mah who explained that ‘it’s terrible to be in a space that you have no control over when you are not in control of your health’.

For Sunand Prasad, it was more about healthcare design on a larger scale. Admitting that ‘the world loves hospitals’, Prasad argued that it is the job of the profession to create more primary care spaces which aid the transition from large hospital facilities back into individual, self-administered care at home. He concluded ‘we’re not just designing a building but facilitating a shift in how healthcare is delivered’.

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