5 / 2014 - new hospital - care architecture

Healthcare systems are changing in Finland even though the protracted reform of health and social welfare services appears to be bogged down. At the same time, hospitals are being rebuilt: hospital construction projects worth over EUR 2 billion are currently under way. The hospitals of the future will be day-activity centres where patients arrive in the morning and leave in the afternoon, preferably by means of public transport. “Even complicated surgical operations can be carried out in this way,” says Jouko Isolauri, Director of the Kanta-Häme Hospital District.

Advances made in medicine and treatment techniques influence hospital operations and design objectives. Currently, processes are evolving at such a fast rate that a hospital is already outdated when completed. “The easy transformation of spaces is indeed a precondition for the contemporary hospital,” says CEO Heikki S. Laherma, an architect and expert in hospital design. By investing in proper and well-timed design, it is possible to cut the operating costs of a hospital – which in the case of an acute-care hospital run up to hundreds of millions of euros per year – by 5–10 per cent, which represents millions in annual savings. Efficient design solutions and high-quality construction pay for themselves in a couple of years.

Healthcare premises have been and still remain a key component of the service culture of a welfare state. At the same time, they are significant public buildings, just like libraries and cultural centres. Professor Hennu Kjisik thinks that modern hospitals should reflect this standard also in architecture: “Hospital design should be seen as an urban project, as part of any living city. Hospital areas should be just as inviting and permeable as any other city block or neighbourhood.”

The review discusses the changing ideals of care facilities and presents hospital designs from various parts of Finland.


Meilahti hospital area town plan alteration
Helsinki City Planning Department, HUS-Tilakeskus
idea plans Harris–Kjisik, AW2, ALA
address Paciuksenkatu–Tukholmankatu–Stenbäckinkatu–Haartaninkatu, Helsinki

description Salla Itäaho, HUS-tilakeskus

As you walk into a typical hospital in Finland, you immediately know that you have entered an institution. Usually, the premises are clean and properly maintained, yet the atmosphere is somewhat bleak and institution-like. However, when you step in some of the modern hospitals in Central Europe the impression is completely different. Rather than a traditional hospital, they tend to resemble shopping centres, airports or other public spaces. They are airy and well-lit offering small-scale services like restaurants, cafes and newspaper stands as well as rooms for short-term waiting, which is often necessary when visiting an outpatient department.

Most of the Finnish central hospitals were built in the 1950s and 60s. Today, hospitals as old as this are awaiting a complete renovation, demolition or conversion to other uses. Currently, there are hospital construction projects worth over two billion euros in the pipeline in Finland. Some foresee modernisation of the existing premises and conservative new construction while other facilities will be completely rebuilt. In the latter case, the final outcome will normally be a more compact complex with better logistics focusing primarily on the provision of day-time services.

When previously hospitals concentrated on in-patient care allowing people to recover at leisure under medication, a new approach is now being adopted: they will be converted into day-activity centres that will admit patients in the morning and discharge them in the evening. Even complex operations can be performed in this way, not to mention medication and rehabilitation which will also play an increasingly important role. After all, rehabilitation does not require as extensive facilities as conventional in-patient care.

Another key trend affecting hospital premises is the integration of services. Soon enough we will find ourselves in a situation where health centres have become part of hospitals, and vice versa: health centres will offer specialised care and outpatient services as well. Old regional hospitals are also undergoing changes.

When in the past hospitals were preferably built outside population centres in a tranquil environment amidst nature, the future trend will most likely be the opposite. ”Walk or take public transport to hospital and go home in the afternoon” is an approach that is likely to make hospitals part of the public services available in city and population centres or in their immediate vicinity.

From the beginning of 2014, Finns have been free to choose the hospital they want to use. While there has been surprisingly little movement so far, it will most likely increase in the future when more data on the outcomes of the treatment given in different hospitals are made available to the public. While the main criteria in making the choice are skills and competence and treatment outcomes, a pleasant milieu, easy access and aesthetics will probably weigh in as well. ark

Jouko Isolauri is the Director of the Kanta-Häme Hospital District.

Näköislehti: Site Logic