Archive for January, 2010

Functional, efficient, light and bright hospital design is pretty much the norm for new construction today. There’s solid evidence that links design with reduced need for medication and shorter hospital stays. This proof is vital, but there is also a need to explore unproven intangible design qualities.

Before funds are invested in new hospital construction, it’s worthwhile to articulate the kind of space people seek when they’re at their most vulnerable due to illness. Is it enough to simply choose from the current healthcare design influences of corporate office, chic hotel or upscale health spa? Or should the design aim to address spiritual needs?

Dissatisfaction with proven norms can lead to breakthroughs. A spark of innovation is ignited when someone says: “We can do better than that!”

Credit Valley Hospital was not afraid to wade into emotional conversations when they set out to define their vision several years ago. That level of commitment, combined with their willingness to break from conventional “healing environment” rhetoric, has made all the difference. Here’s how their inspiring words guided this hospital’s memorable design:

– Sharon VanderKaay

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It’s easy to see why so many PPT slide presentations include images of interlocking gears to evoke maximum team efficiency. Gears convey a seductive sense of control; they are reassuringly neat and predictable. These mechanical parts are perfect for representing machine age detachment, and perhaps also suit transactions involving information technology.

But gear metaphors communicate the opposite of what’s required for innovation to occur in a knowledge era. Knowledge—in contrast to information—gains value when humans develop what they know through reflection and interaction. The reality of this process is far from neat, predictable and mechanical. Developing the wealth of knowledge that leads to innovation requires relationships built on trust. Gears do not evoke trust or thoughtful reflection. So let’s not misrepresent living, human activities—such as collaboration—with graphics that glorify interchangeable metal parts.

The above set of slides expands on this notion of contrast between mechanical and natural systems.  

– Sharon VanderKaay




  • About The Nature of Innovation

    We see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow’s built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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