Decoding Design

Michael Graves on how to design better hospital rooms

Posting in Architecture

How can we design better healthcare settings for patients and health care providers? Award winning American architect Michael Graves tells his story.

Michael Graves is widely known as an architect who designs objects we use in daily life, most famously for Target. The American architect, who was just named the 2012 recipient of the Richard H. Driehaus Prize, also applies his approachable design philosophy to building better hospitals and home care environments. In his TEDMED 2011 talk outlined by CNN's Madison Park, Graves presents his own experience with a rare illness that left him paralyzed and how undergoing rehabilitation in inadequately designed hospital rooms inspired his healthcare designs.

In 2003, Graves developed a sinus infection that escalated and required an emergency trip to the hospital. By the next morning, the infection spread to his brain and spine, and the architect was paralyzed from the chest down. Graves spent months in hospitals and quickly learned how poorly designed patient rooms hampered a patient's recovery and zapped any sense of empowerment regained after therapy sessions.

"They didn't make big mistakes," Graves said about various designs he observed in hospitals and rehab centers. "They just made the most frustrating mistakes you could ever imagine and made your cure more difficult. Your room should make it easier for the doctors and the aides and the patient. But instead it does just the opposite."

Throughout his recovery, Graves sketched ideas for improving hospital buildings, rooms, and furniture. In 2009, the products he designed out of frustration became available through a partnership with Stryker, a hospital furnishing company.

The products are simple, logical improvements of the usual furniture found in patient rooms, such as a bedside cabinet with rounded edges, handles, a two way-drawer and an integrated trash can that fits under the bedside table (a favorite of hospital staff). The line also includes a chair with larger handles, to make it easier for patients to hoist themselves up, an overbed table, and a bedside stand with a large handle.

Architectural critics and academics often credit Michael Graves with democratizing design, and not just for his work with Target. His recently revealed designs for the Wounded Warrior Homes project reflect the designer's ongoing commitment to human centered designs that work.

Watch part of the TEDMED video below:

Graves: Why hospital rooms don't work [CNN]

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure