By Emma Loewe,
Communal gardens, landscaped rooftops, and wide-open windows aren’t features of your typical hospital—but maybe they should be. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore is a case study in what can happen when nature-inspired design is applied to the medical setting to promote healing.
The green treatment.
In 2005, CPG Corporate, a Singapore-based design firm, was tasked with creating a hospital that actually lowered visitors’ blood pressure. “How do we challenge the idea of a hospital to deinstitutionalize it and make it look, smell, and feel unlike a hospital?” Jerry Ong Chin-Po, an architect who worked on the project, tells mbg of the initial challenge. “We felt the best way to do it was to integrate nature into the space.”
The hospital, which opened its doors in 2010 and now serves 800,000 residents in northern Singapore, has masked the smell of medicine and chemicals with over 700 species of fragrant native plants. In the lobby, sounds of machines are drowned out by bird species in the central courtyard. And instead of walking through sterile white hallways, patients, caretakers, and the occasional butterfly navigate the space on outdoor bridges wrapped in greenery.
In Singapore, medical buildings have multiple tiers of patient rooms (it’s part of how the country maintains its famously cheap health care). Some are private and have air conditioning; others have up to five beds and rely on natural ventilation. In order to ensure that all patients feel comfortable—regardless of how much they’re paying to be there—Chin-Po’s team again leaned on nature. They installed new windows that could be opened wider to allow for more airflow and made sure that every patient could see greenery from their bed, even if it was just a planter box on the other side of their window.
At mealtimes, patients are given organic food grown in a massive rooftop garden, and everyone fills their plates with fruits and veggies on the weekly, hospital-wide Meatless Mondays. “We always bring this idea of creating a total healing environment,” Chin-Po says. “Not just for the patients but for the caregivers and staff as well. It’s all part of the whole system.”
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