Prolific architect and product designer Michael Graves has left his mark on everything from household kitchen products to high-rise buildings, but he harbours a special passion for hospitals.
“Hospital rooms are stupidly designed,” Graves recently told attendees of the 2012 Health Forum and the American Hospital Association’s Leadership Summit in San Francisco, CA, USA. Hospitals should be devoting resources to designing rooms from a patient perspective rather than spending money on “atriums that make them look like hotels,” he said at the summit during a lecture hosted by the Copper Development Association. He should know. In 2003, an infection left Graves paralysed from the waist down. His recuperation in eight different hospitals left him plenty of time to experience the inadequacies of healthcare facilities.
In his lecture, “People First: Redesigning the Hospital Room,” Graves recounted his struggle using a hospital bathroom as a sudden paraplegic. Wheeling himself into the bathroom, he discovered that the mirror was mounted too high to be of any use to him. “I know who designed this bathroom: experts,” said Graves. The sink and electrical outlets also were designed without any consideration for patients suffering from a disability or undergoing rehabilitation.
During the lecture, he also addressed the issue of nosocomial infections, and explained how intelligent design could help to reduce their incidence. Graves showed the audience a picture of a greasy particleboard table that had a green growth on the bottom. He noted that this would not have been a problem had the table been made of copper (a tip of the hat to the host association, certainly, but the antimicrobial properties of copper are well documented). As another example of how smart design could make a dent in the proliferation of nosocomial infections, Graves showed furnishings his firm designed with large handles, providing orderlies with a single grasping point and, thus, eliminating nooks and crannies that needed thorough cleanings.