Interiör Maggies centre
​Maggies centre OMA by Phillipe Ruault

Healthcare studio

ARKX03, Masters’ thesis direction, 2018/2019​

"the hospital is a human invention and such can be reinvented anytime" (Kaiser Leiland)

Description and aim

Healthcare design has developed positively during the last decade. Today architects are aware of the crucial importance of architecture being part of a good healing environment. It has been shown that building itself has the possibility to promote health, reduce time for treatment, decrease medication and help to reduce the stress experienced by patients, their families, and the teams caring for them. All this opens up new possibilities for architecture to be an important part of the healing process, as well as relating to a range of complex societal issues. Designing spaces for healthcare is one of the most complex and therefore challenging architectural design commissions there is. You are requested to create visionary architecture, coordinating a good patient experience with demands for highquality work conditions, sufficient space for treatment and care logistics.​

The studio adopts a designerly research approach, combining research for design and research by design approaches. This is based upon the idea that complex topics and projects, such as healthcare buildings, are best understood when exploring on multiple dimensions and scales in parallel, needed in healthcare projects. This approach combines exploration of literature, user interviews, persona development and co-design workshops (research for design) in parallel with iterative alternative studies relating to urban composition, building massing, building use and building technology (research by design). In this way, you are trained in both practice relevant, problem-oriented approach and advanced design thinking. 

The aim of the master thesis in healthcare architecture is to support you to develop innovative architectural solutions for healthcare services. The main learning objectives is to communicate your architectural vision and argumentation on healthcare building design both physically, visually, verbally and written.

This includes
  • Learning to explore different architectural positions in healthcare building design (written and built reference projects)
  • Learning to develop architectural ambitions, design strategies and solutions in relation to health-related challenges and healthcare visions.
  • Learning to reflect on their your process and vision within a larger context of healthcare architecture.

Sub-directions

Within the Healthcare Studio there are several different focus points:
  • Development context, in relation to real clients. Mainly from the Swedish County councils or in collaboration with NGO’s such as Architects without Borders (AwB). The projects in collaboration with AwB have previously been combined with on-site work, and can include different phases of the design process. This includes participatory approaches, linking to local craftmanship and research-informed design.
  • Person-centered care & Health Promotion; focused on the relation between building design and health promotion perspectives. Health promotion is a public health approach, which aim to support positive health for both the building users (patients, staff, visitors), as well as the local community and the ecological environment. This includes concepts such as inclusive, active and healthy design.
  • Future Proofing; focuses on the relation between future healthcare, future societal changes and building design. This sub-direction includes working with scenario development; the relation between time, change and design solutions. The goal of this sub-direction is to inspire practice and challenge todays limits.​

 NORD architect’s cancer centrum Copenhagen, photo by Adam Mørk

Method and process

Within the healthcare direction there are multiple work approaches combined.

Design process

The design process in practice is seldom linear, certainly not in complex projects with multiple stakeholder. To guide the process in the right direction we recognize four overlapping stages;
  • Initiation; setting the stage for the project.
  • Inspiration; gathering insights from anywhere.
  • Innovation; gathering, screening and selecting ideas.
  • Implementation; getting ideas out into the world.​
 Illustration of the general design process

Architectural Domains

Within the studio we lean on five architectural domains, which relate to each other, and are developed throughout the project process;

  • Urban; urban context of the project, where it is located, what is surrounding the project.
  • Use; the program, the layout, different flows in the building in time.
  • Story; cultural, historical, economical, societal context of the challenge and the position therein of the project.
  • Composition; the massing, shapes and morphology of the building
  • Atmosphere; the building materials, the light, the installations of the building that commonly create the different atmospheres in the building.

Close collaboration to ongoing research and practice

The teaching team of the healthcare studio are all closely connected to research or practice (or both). The Centre for Healthcare Architecture (CVA) is a resource for all students; we collect literature, create standards and have insight on the newest knowledge on healthcare building design. Knowledge exchange between CVA and the students is stimulated, and the CVA network help to get in contact with important stakeholders.

Specific evaluation criteria’s

Besides the general requirements for master thesis work, the thesis will be evaluated on;
  • How well you understand health-related architectural research.
  • How well you are able to communicate architectural explorations in relation to a healthcare vision.
  • How well you visualize your process in relation to your methods.
  • How well you interpret and visualize the architectural domains (see above).

Specific submission requirements

Based upon our experience it is recommended to have worked with Healthcare architecture before. It is thus recommended that you are familiar with relevant healthrelated architectural theory, research approaches and the practice in relation to the chosen task.

The submission is based upon the MT proposal that includes;
  • title of the project
  • your name, course name, date and tutors
  • abstract (300 words) including research question
  • exploration focused on process (method) including work approaches, planning, weekly objectives and deliverables
  • design exploration focused on architectural domains (urban, use, story, composition and atmosphere)
  • exploration of reference projects (written / built)
  • a portfolio including education overview with finished courses (and credits), work experience and educational projects.

Suggested literature and projects

Wagenaar, C. & Mens, N. (2018). Hospitals. A Design Manual. Berlin, Basel:Birkhäuser.
Verderber, S. (2010). Innovations in hospital architecture. Routledge.

Exemplary thesis projects

As the Healthcare direction has been very diverse in scale, phase and level of writing versus design, and currently many changes have been implemented it is difficult to find MT projects that can be considered as exemplary for the whole direction. However, you can find all projects here. ​

Direction faculty

Peter Fröst (examiner), Saga Karlsson (tutor), Elke Miedema (tutor), Christine
Hammarling (tutor and Healthcare Design Expert)

Published: Mon 15 Jan 2018. Modified: Thu 13 Sep 2018