Hospitals reinvent themselves after coronavirus lifestyle
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned hotels, public parks and sports halls into health centres and healthcare architects are studying new construction formulas based on sustainable materials, industrialised structures and flexible design.
Coronavirus has changed the way buildings are understood and occupied. Architecture has been a key part of the plan to halt COVID-19, with public parks, trade fair precincts, hotels and sports halls being turned into field hospitals.
The ingenuity and versatility shown by architects, designers, illustrators, property developers and volunteers has played a key role in controlling the pandemic and they have introduced new approaches to building based on industrialised or inflatable structures, new technologies and more sustainable materials.
More sustainable and modular express architecture
An example of this new healthcare architecture is the IFEMA campaign hospital in Madrid. Built in just three days, this trade fair precinct transformed its facilities into a medical mega-complex with capacity for 5,500 hospital beds and an ICU.
Built in 1985 by architects Estanislao Pérez Pita and Jerónimo Junquera, this 200,000 square metre hall was inspired by the ideas of Sáenz de Oiza, who likened architecture to the human body. Based on this biological parallel, the design of IFEMA included extensive underground galleries and a system of tunnels that has provided storage space for emergency sanitary supplies.
The use of artificial intelligence speeded up construction and made it possible to include liquid oxygen tanks, as well as a thermal camera for walk-through screening of those entering the premises.
Another city that has repurposed buildings is London, which turned the ExCeL conference centre into a temporary hospital. In just nine days, the British army built an emergency unit with 4,000 beds, where nearly 16,000 people will work. “It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense – from its speed of construction as we’ve heard to its size and the skills of those who have created it,” said Prince Charles at the opening of the health facility.
New technologies also helped develop CURA in Italy. Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italia Rota used their professional know-how to transform shipping containers into modular intensive care units for hospitals in Lombardy. Open-source design to tackle COVID-19. “The secret for the hospitals of the future is to develop flexible constructions that can be used as field hospitals. Synergies with the army will also be necessary, so that they can learn how to set up a field hospital in less than 48 hours,” said architect Carlos Lamela in a Porcelanosa Lifestyle Magazine interview.
The originality and involvement of architects in solidarity initiatives has helped save many lives. This can be seen in the conversion of the American navy ship ‘USNS Comfort’ into a naval hospital. Equipped with more than 1,000 beds and 12 operating theatres, the vessel docked in the port of New York on 30 March to relieve the pressure on hospitals caused by the coronavirus. Up to 26 April, when the last patient was discharged, 182 Americans infected by COVID-19 were treated on board.
Modular architecture has been key to the construction of field hospitals. In Pachuca (Mexico), in just 20 hours a 1,000 square metre inflatable hospital was put up with two admissions areas, 20 single rooms and four separate operating theatres.
Hospital architecture after COVID-19
At this turning point, as architects are studying new construction formulas and uses for hospitals, the sector is rethinking the current model in response to biological and natural challenges.
More extensive, multi-purpose health rooms, the digitalisation of operating theatres, the use of antibacterial materials, open rooms with natural light and more flexible design are among the concepts being addressed in architectural debates. “This virus will reformulate the way in which we enter public buildings,” comments architect Mark Fenwick, who was also interviewed by Porcelanosa Lifestyle Magazine.
For Fenwick, the change involves “designing with common sense” and investing more in innovation and technology. In the new scenario opening up for hospital architecture, cooperation between the public and private sectors is fundamental. “Companies that invest in R&D and develop materials that promote public health are the future,” he says.
These healthy materials include copper, which was recommended for use as a biocide by the US Environmental Protection Agency, porcelain stoneware and solid surfaces with anti-bacterial properties, such as Krion®, produced by the Porcelanosa Group. This new generation Solid Surface is ideal for hospitals and medical centres because it is very hygienic, light, easy to clean and has an aseptic composition.
Credits cover image: Reuters
Design24·04·2020The healthcare emergency caused by the coronavirus has resulted in a strong and coordinated collective response. Artists, creators, designers, entrepreneurs and volunteers have mobilised to help those who need it most with a series of initiatives ranging from the design, production and distribution of masks or visors, to the creation of collaborative platforms where solutions to the pandemic are shared.