Designing Rehabilitating Spaces:

A toolkit for the healthcare environment using the principles of biophilic design

Alejandra Meza
Bachelor of Architecture

Advised by:
Lola Ben-Alon
Angela Mazzi
Azadeh Sawyer

Studio coordinated by Heather Bizon and Sarah Rafson

Themes: Care | Sustainability

The views that patients experience during recovery have a crucial correlation to patients recovery [1].  It was shown that designing spaces where people heal according to biophilic design principles, increases smooth recovery and reduces the risks of complications. As part of this approach, materials and element representation within patient rooms is shown to be integral. This thesis will be focused on reducing stress in patient rooms,  a space for resting, during a high stress period of time when they are sensitive to ambient characteristics trying to understand how their five senses are impacted. I will be doing this by focusing on material properties, relationship between spaces and sequencing of events. To encapsulate this goal, I will be creating a material toolkit for reducing stress and fostering rehabilitation which will be developed, using the principles of biophilic design.

Accommodating to the ostensible needs of patients, is the priority of health care professionals. However, creating spaces that allow for healing is multifaceted; with concerns of lighting, cleanability, safety, noise, temperature, in parallel, to concerns of practicality, efficiency, budget and space. The emergence of Architectural Modernism, the importance of form following function, during the turn of the 20th century has had lasting impacts on healthcare typology. Tuberculosis Sanatoriums were designed in the similar modernism simplistic style, which the white walls and focus on function have followed through to current day hospital design (10) Healthcare design as a field is currently facing an era of change as we face the Covid-19 Pandemic and with these rapid redesigns and considerations there is an opportunity to reimagine how these spaces are to be designed moving forward. .  Being in a position where one needs to be in a hospital is a high stress environment for all parties involved; simultaneously removing the familiar comforts of home in an alien hospital environment adds additional stress to patients and their support system. Additionally, when people are in the position where they need to physically heal their physical senses are affected: the sensations feel altered or heightened [2]. This amplifies the emotions and stressors experienced in said conditions.


This is a tool for intelligent design in healthcare.

Designing Rehabilitating Spaces: 

A toolkit for the healthcare environment using the principles of biophilic design

Alejandra Meza B.Arch

01 Designing Rehabilitating Spaces

02 Biophilia

03 Implementing Biophilia in Hospital Rooms

04 Material Evaluation

05 Natural Materials

In my research I explore: Which materials have the potential to create a more biophilic healthcare environment to improve mental and physiological conditions for both patients and medical staff?
I seek to question why we design healthcare environments the way we do. Breaking down what is there due to the history of the space and which aspects of patient rooms can be improved upon.  The space in which one heals matters to the outcome, I plan to design spaces in my thesis that reduce stress which as a result  will enable healing.  I am doing this by implementing natural materials, breaking down patient experience by senses and analyzing event sequencing for patients. I am interested in designing spaces tailored to the best outcome and removing added stress from people during whatever transitory stage of their lives they may be in.

I explore how I can use biophilic design in traditional and non traditional spaces.  I will achieve a more thorough outcome by evaluating design elements psychologically and physiologically to better understand the patient experience.  

The prospect of designing with earthen materials is hypothesized to promote a stress reducing environment due to physiological, physical and psychological properties of these materials. Visual stimulation is crucial to the healing process which is what earthen materials do as a baseline. My thesis will serve as a tool to bring in these associations to locations where light and nature are generally unable to be integrated with space. Following the critical advantages of biophilic design and natural materials, these findings of biophilic design apply to other natural materials in a typically very artificial setting. I want to explore the theoretical limitations of these materials.

Material Evaluation

The following guidelines introduces different ways of evaluating hosptial room elements. 

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