As we collectively seek to apply solution-based expertise to challenges surfacing from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reminded of history’s role in design education and application. Historical reference grounds both our continued observation of human interaction with space and our creative process—and it is playing a significant role in the transformation of healing and wellness institutions as we continue to shift, on a global scale, in response to our current crisis.
The history of hospitals and the evolution of health facilities are rooted in social, economic, scientific, and technological factors. In the Middle Ages, for example, hospitals were unsanitary and had high mortality rates. Priority was placed not on the patient, but on isolating unwell individuals from the healthy population. These environments had very little natural lighting, and ventilation was almost non-existent. The heating systems, which functioned on wood or coal, resulted in poor air quality.
Patient well-being was far from the design goal.