Total Lighting Magazine and Peter Kelly puts medical centres under the spotlight and discovers what part lighting plays in the design of these spaces
The link between light and wellbeing in hospitals has been apparent for many decades. In the UK, the development of modernist architecture was explicitly linked with the notion of healthiness, and a central part of this was allowing for a greater infiltration of daylight into buildings. It is no coincidence that some of the most notable modernist buildings in the UK – including the Pioneer Health Centre, Peckham; Finsbury Health Centre; and the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea – are directly associated with healthy living. Lighting conditions were central to this and remain so to this day.
Yet artificial lighting is still a fundamental part of designing hospital interiors; making them functional, efficient amenities, but also providing a warm, invigorating and stimulating environment. There is a growing awareness that the lighting of a medical environment not only assists with the treatment and recuperation of patients, but also greatly improves the efficiency and efficacy of hospital workers.
Recently-constructed healthcare buildings continue the tradition of placing natural light at the core of the design. The Carema Healthcare Centre in Stockholm, Sweden, for example, has interior spaces bathed in sunlight. The architect, Swedish practice TAF created both treatment rooms and waiting areas that have large windows and a uniformly white colour scheme – along with a modular motif for walls and furniture, which recalls bandages and sticking plasters – that lets the light infiltrate every area of the building. The light fittings in the building are either unobtrusively sunk into the ceiling or hang in organically rounded shapes that emit soft light, mimicking the effect of natural sunlight.
The CircleBath hospital by Foster + Partners in the city of Bath, also lets natural light flood into its central atrium: a design strategy intended to create a sense of openness and tranquillity within the building, which is set in the Somerset countryside. Large circular skylights allow light to pour in, and are surrounded by long, hanging pleated translucent textiles that snake through the atrium to create a soft, diffused light for the interior.
While the provision of daylight is crucial, hospitals are 24-hour buildings that place very high demands on their lighting systems. Apart from being clinical environments, hospital are also frequently large works of infrastructure that incorporate areas for precise, sterile work, comforting rest and recuperation spaces, and also require the efficient movement of huge numbers of people every day and night. In the US, for example, healthcare institutions pay almost £5.8bn per year in energy costs, and, on average, 18 per cent of every facilities’ electricity bill is spent on lighting…