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  • Healing Spaces Project


Do you like hospitals?

I wonder how many people would answer yes, perhaps they work there and are proud of their work, perhaps someone has loving memories of a fabulous nurse (I know I do).

In regards to a hospital itself serving as a space, functioning in a practical way but also as a calming, inspiring and healing space? I think we can do better.

It is proven that connecting with nature improves our wellbeing.

Have you ever noticed on a bright sunny day, you might feel energised, inspired, uplifted, all the good stuff. The light around you is high in contrast, shadows crisp and filtered light, these conditions are stimulating and interesting.

Now think of a cloudy day, colours dulled, contrast minimised, an overall sense of relaxation. On days like this you might find you don't necessarily want to do too much physical work but would enjoy to read, watch a movie or work. These conditions are relaxing and promote focus.

So now picture a hospital room with a patient in bed. The lighting is of a cloudy day, flooded in light, low contrast, very practical for nurses, doctors, cleaners to work.

But the patient is in this light, all day. If they are lucky enough to have a window they may see the change of light over the day but they miss the sparkle and variability that happens with changing light, the changes we are used to experiencing as a species of nature.

I'm not saying the practical and focused light needs changing, this serves its purpose to the staff as discussed, but consider how it may feel for a patient to have, for example, star like lighting in the ceiling or for the kids rooms a space projector, or curved LED strips on the floor that lead to the bathroom like a night garden. These light variations spark a connection to nature and connections to nature enhance wellbeing, something I think hospitals would benefit from immensely.

I think it is worth considering too, the staff rooms that the hospital staff retreat to for their breaks.

Hospital staff have been working in these 'cloudy day' conditions and anyone who works in a hospital, office or most public spaces really, understand that working under fluorescent lights can be draining. Imagine a staff room that evokes those sunny day experiences, strong contrasts and shadows with colour and light, access to plants or water features, a chance to disconnect, shake up their environment with spatial variability and go back renewed.

Esther Sternberg in her TED talk 'Healing Spaces - The science of place and wellbeing' asks "How many of you associate a hospital to a calming, healing spa?" She then goes on to say that it is her goal that one day she can ask that question without the audience laughing. I have to say I agree.

Moving forward from these uncertain times, we have an opportunity to look at things differently.

I think it is pretty clear that the healers and newly realised essential workers of the world are receiving the standing ovation they deserve (or will receive it very soon). Perhaps in return, we can look at ways to make their working environment more supportive to them, the patients they so dearly tend to and the cleaners/cook staff and everyone else that work day and night to collectively run a space that is there, to heal.

The Healing Spaces Project - Lauren Shiels

If you want to hear more of Esther Sternberg you can watch the TED talk here

Images via Pinterest.

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