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A Missing Conversation: Medical Centers and the Built Environment

Hospitals, medical research centers, and the like are supposed to represent health, but are often an unappealing and monolithic presence in the urban landscape. How can the form of health centers fall in line with their function?
May 25, 2016, 2pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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There's been controversy about the responsibilities of hospitals and medical centers to their communities. But what about their physical form and how it impacts neighbors and patients alike?

Jennifer S. Vey says we need more discussion about "how the physical character of urban health centers, and the relationship they in turn have with their surrounding neighborhoods, could be more supportive of expanded and evolving ideas for what it takes to build a healthier society."

As things stand, most medical buildings aren't models of urban connectivity. Instead they embody a "starkly similar, and fairly depressing, spatial form: large-scale, inwardly focused buildings, ample parking, and scarcely any people in site."

Vey writes that hospital and research campuses are usually self-contained, blocking out community interaction, isolating patients and staff, even preventing medical progress by segregating doctors according to specialty and role. 

A greener (as in literal plants) and more connected medical campus could address these failings by building on the study of healthy cities. Vey gives some promising examples of such medical "innovation hubs" and ends with a figure: $97.1 billion. That's the value of all large healthcare buildings planned or under construction in the United States at the end of 2015. 

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Published on Thursday, May 5, 2016 in The Brookings Institution
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