Toronto Globe and Mail Architecture Critic Alex Bozikovic celebrates numerous features of the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) in his review of the award-winning hospital centre.
“I could see the sky. That was remarkable because I was standing in a hospital hallway,” he states to open the piece. “I was in Montreal, at the University of Montreal’s new hospital centre. The 772-bed complex in the city’s downtown opened to patients a few months ago. It is one of the most important pieces of architecture in the country: the hospital is designed for 800,000 visits a year, and Montrealers will have some of the most intense experiences of their lives here.”
On the CHUM’s patient-centric design
Happily, CHUM reflects an increased emphasis, in contemporary hospitals, on what’s called “patient-centered design.” The central insight is obvious enough: That the design of a place can put people at ease, make them happier and then make them healthier. Begin with daylight and views. These commodities have been rare in hospital design for the past three generations. Most of us have shared the experience of being a patient, or visiting one, and getting lost in a windowless maze of low-ceilinged corridors, endless heavy doors, perplexing signage and relentless fluorescent lights. Not here.
On the importance of evidence-based design
The team strove to make the building serve its human users, working with architectural and medical research. “The design is based on evidence of what works,” said Stroupe.
The patient rooms are a case in point. They are all identical in layout, so staff can navigate them effortlessly. A zone near the door includes waste bins and a sink – wash your hands promptly, please. The washroom, to the left, has few seams or horizontal surfaces to accumulate germs. The bed, to the right, is positioned to give the patient views out the window; and a family area, in the far corner, includes a reclining chair and storage cabinet. The materials are utilitarian, but the details are thought out: Most importantly, the patient can control the lighting from the bed, killing the fluorescents when they want to relax. And the monitoring equipment is designed to beep as little as possible. These rooms “give patients control over their own environments,” Stroupe said.
On CHUM’s intuitive design
The hospital’s main building is divided – to excellent effect – into three smaller wings. The front door, when the project is complete, will face onto a large courtyard. One wing to the north houses mostly outpatient clinics; two more wings to the west, patient care rooms. “Eventually, when you arrive at the front door and ask for directions – the staff will be able to direct you with a gesture,” Stroupe added.