april 2020
Urban Densification and Health
Interview with Hani Rashid
Editors Jade Bailey, Adriana Boeck, Emma Sanson & Patricia Tibu
Why is architectural design relevant within the healthcare industry?
Architectural design is a process located between the engineering of solutions and the art of accommodating the human spirit. We are well equipped to mediate and negotiate 'needs' versus 'desire,' and the future architecture of healthcare will require that equal emphasis is put on both aspects. The new healthcare industry will need innovative 'out of the box' solutions and ideas in navigating the complexities of a human-machine landscape.



'innovative 'out of the box' solutions and ideas in navigating the complexities of a human-machine landscape'
Hospitals have gone through notable changes from their humble beginnings to today's complex constructs. With both medicinal technology and knowledge about human health being progressed every day - while the population grows older and more substantial - what do you see as the future typology of healthcare? Will we still send our sick to the types of special facilities that we do today?
This is a question that would have exacted an entirely different response just a few months ago. The global pandemic has been a wakeup call on so many levels, the least of which is the healthcare system itself proving to be deficient and in desperate need of revision. It is now vividly apparent that the current typology of the hospital is cumbersome and quasi obsolete. Hospital planning and facilities are far too rigid and inflexible, especially when it comes to accommodating such urgency as we have seen with the unprecedented Covid-19 global pandemic. These 'facilities,' for the most part, are proving to be challenging to upgrade and quickly adapt when confronted with such unexpected calamity and crisis.'there is a real need for a 'plug and play' approach to any new architecture in this domain'

From the perspective of being in New York City during this period of 'lock down, it has become apparent that new questions need to be posed in terms of the significance and role of the 'hospital' in today's society, and how might current typologies be reconsidered and re-invented. The building typology of the present day hospital has been with us since the industrial revolution. An antiquated model predicated on a 'factory' paradigm, principally an architecture for housing the process of diagnosis, repair, and recovery. What is now clear is the need for significant change and the need to formulate new urban strategies alongside new hospital typologies, where communities are served by an efficient and integrated health infrastructure rather than clusters of autonomous and often redundant structures. For starters, an essential consideration in our design thinking should be with respect to the proximity and location of neighborhoods, workplaces, areas of high density and places of high occupancy relative to an overall urban healthcare masterplan, for example. Therefore we might consider the possibility of an atomized and distributed 'hospital" situated throughout the city and surrounding environs.

Secondly, there is a real need for a 'plug and play' approach to any new architecture in this domain. That is to say that extensive healthcare facilities today are predicated on an older understanding of efficiency and are relatively inflexible in terms of adapting to evolving needs and requirements. New facilities should be designed to expand and contract, and to be upgradeable in order to accommodate necessary changes. The ability for new medical facilities to be able to reconfigured and re-purposed in terms of functionality is something that we can already design and implement today given the potential of machine learning, AI, robotics and other advanced technologies in both the design and building processes.

'there is a real need for a 'plug and play' approach to any new architecture in this domain'


A third aspect to consider is that all of these facilities, large and small, from clinics to hospitals, need to be both physically and digitally networked and connected. The future of 'health infrastructure' will undoubtedly require seamlessness across vast expanses of city space and outlying environs to facilitate communication, the exchange of data and information, and to provide for different types and levels of accessibility, whether we speak of remote access or physical connection via distributed facilities or ties to public transportation systems. As architects, the problem is, therefore, how to consider hospitals as simultaneously spatial and digital networks.



Cities of today are housing a majority of the world's population for the first time in human history while our society is more focused on efficiency and economic growth than ever before. Now that we live longer, but not necessarily without less illness in our later years - how do you see our future urban centers tackle the health of its citizens in a more holistic approach?
What will eventually need to take hold (and now at an accelerated pace) are new types of lifestyle-oriented 'medical' environments, architectural environments that would target the essential front end of healthcare alongside traditional critical care facilities. Primarily these new building 'components' would need to fold into the functional aspects of Hospitals. These 'interventions' would be focused primarily on preventive care aspects such as physical fitness, nutrition, physiological and psychological therapeutics, lifestyle modification, education, and training. Such an approach could yield outcomes ranging from sprawling campus like complexes to interconnected small scale interventions interspersed throughout communities.






'Such an approach could yield outcomes ranging from sprawling campus like complexes to interconnected small scale interventions interspersed throughout communities.'
Within our fast-living societies, more than 50% of the general population in the middle- and high-income countries suffer from mental disorders at some point in their lives. Improving mental health and well-being has become crucial in the health care system. How can architects and urban planners be integrated into the process of not only treatment but also prevention? Can design and architecture contribute to the recovery of a patient? Can our well-being be influenced by not only quantitative, physical parameters (such as air quality) but also qualitative attributes (such as aesthetics, atmosphere?

Architecture in all of its many guises has always, in one way or another, played an important role when it comes to 'mental health.' When architects work with scale and proportion, composition, form and light and other 'intangible' aspects, they are effectively meditating upon and mirroring the human condition. The 'art of architecture' is effectively manifesting and celebrating what it is to 'be' in space. With this in mind, architects must strive to maintain in their work the humanistic aspects of design. It is, after all, the architect's role in society to comprehend and thereby translate what is 'beautiful,' remarkable, profound, and fundamentally human into the built environment
Architecture in all of its many guises has always, in one way or another, played an important role when it comes to 'mental health.' When architects work with scale and proportion, composition, form and light and other 'intangible' aspects, they are effectively meditating upon and mirroring the human condition in one way or another. The 'art of architecture' is effectively manifesting and celebrating what it is to 'be' in space. With this in mind, architects must strive to maintain in their work the humanistic aspects of design. It is, after all, the architect's role in society to comprehend and thereby translate what is 'beautiful,' remarkable, profound, and fundamentally human into the built environment.


'It is, after all, the architect's role in society to comprehend and thereby translate what is 'beautiful,' remarkable, profound, and fundamentally human into the built environment.'
As we head into an uncertain future, how can science and the human come together in design?
The next wave of the human-science equation will undoubtedly involve AI, robotics, machine learning, virtual and augmented realities, and above all, massive data sets augmenting hyper-connected societies and cities. For architects, the near future will compel us to rethink our approach to the built environment on many levels. Primarily technology-based aspects, as mentioned, will force us to question the very notion of design itself.

'The human-machine interface will compel us to develop new ways to express differentiation'


Our future design processes will become more intricately linked to new technologies and their formidable capabilities. Designing with AI, for example, will become a routine process where we will expect the technology to optimize infinite variations and generate optimum solutions. Working in AR and VR will undoubtedly become a seamless and integral part of our design processes. Data and societies will inevitably become wholly intertwined, thereby producing entirely new approaches to our future urbanism.

Our recognition of the importance of nature alongside the increasing challenges to the natural environment, will necessitate the need for us to develop new skill sets to be able to produce agile sustainable and intelligent solutions in symbiosis with nature. The human-machine interface will compel us to develop new ways to express differentiation, cultural nuance, uniqueness, and even a beautiful and uncanny strangeness.