Design hospitals to be community centers.
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore is a biophilic building with a great abundance of green elements. It’s a hospital in a garden.
Singapore is known as the garden city; their new motto is “We are a city in the garden.” They believe everyone should aspire to live in a garden environment, surrounded by nature, and that every piece of empty land should be filled with nature. More than any other city, Singapore is also thinking vertically, creating buildings filled with nature.
Liak Teng Lit, the CEO of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, wanted a building where your heart rate and blood pressure go down as you enter. Hospitals are inherently stressful. You are there because you anticipate an operation or worse. Instead of stressing patients and visitors out, he built a hospital that acts as a partner in the healing process.
Patients look out onto multiple layers of green roofs, planter boxes along the windows, and a courtyard garden. There is a set of healing spaces with a waterfall connected by water spaces and fishponds, which provide habitats to many species of fish.
One of the green roofs is actually a dramatic urban farm where patients can watch food being grown and harvested. When Lit surveyed the patients to discover what they thought of the farm, they said, “We love watching it, we love seeing food being grown.”
The building is an ark designed to partially restore lost nature. The hospital’s level of success is judged in terms of how many bird and butterfly species the gardens attract.
The hospital is also a community center. In the United States, hospitals are high security, but this hospital attracts people from the neighborhood. Local students come here to study, and it acts as a park as well.
This place makes me hopeful because it shows how healthcare facilities can be designed to include nature. While there is no recorded evidence, my gut feeling is that this building does heal. This is a hospital people want to be in.
Timothy Beatley is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia.
This is an excerpt from Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World by Jared Green, published by Princeton Architectural Press, reprinted here with permission of the publisher.
Image credit: Khoo Teck Puat Hospital / Timothy Beatley