Health and Nature: Norway Shows World How to Design Hospitals

A reprieve in nature may help speed recovery time after hospital treatment. (Image: via  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
A reprieve in nature may help speed recovery time after hospital treatment. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Hospitals carry a variety of equipment to deal with any medical condition your body might be afflicted with. However, most of them fail at taking care of emotional well-being. One of the reasons for this is because hospitals tend to be located in busy areas with a lot of traffic, allowing for people to reach them quickly.

Norway has taken a radical step away from this paradigm, as two hospitals in the country have come together to build an outdoor retreat in the midst of a forest. This will allow patients to take a reprieve in nature after spending several tough days getting physical treatment.

Nature therapy

Called the “Outdoor Care Retreat,” the building was designed by the architectural firm Snøhetta in association with a charity called the Friluftssykehuset Foundation. Locally, the structure is also known as a friluftssykehuset, which is a combination of two Norwegian words — “friluftsliv”, which points to the necessity of spending time with nature, and “sykehus,” the word for hospital.

Maren Lindheim, a child psychologist, feels that allowing patients to spend time in nature will help speed their recoveries. “Nature provides spontaneous joy and helps patients relax. Being in natural surroundings brings them a renewed calm that they can bring back with them into the hospital. In this sense, the Outdoor Care Retreat helps motivate patients to get through treatment and contribute to better disease management,” he said to Treehugger.

Every patient at the retreat gets a 377 square foot space that has been designed ground-up to help them rejuvenate. The architectural firm designed the entire place with the idea that it would call to mind the playful wooden cabins that people create when they are kids. What was once just a forest floor has today been converted to what the foundation calls “dignity zones,” places that help in disease management.

(Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Every patient at the retreat gets a 377 square foot space that has been designed ground-up to help them rejuvenate. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

“While the cabins are integrated with the hospital campus, they are removed enough to be thought of as private locations. Consisting of a main room, smaller room for conversation and treatment, and a bathroom, the interiors are fully clad in oak. And the exteriors are equally harmonious with the Norwegian forest: The structural wood will turn grey over time, seamlessly blending with the trees overhead,” according to Frameweb.

The Foundation was established by Håvard Hernes, whose daughter had become ill in 2009. During this time, the family was all stressed out and Hernes felt they needed a stress-free zone, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern city. As a consequence, Hernes created the concept of open-air retreats, established the Friluftssykehuset Foundation in 2015, and went on to collaborate with Snøhetta on the Outdoor Care Retreat.

Healthcare architecture trends

A nature-centric design is just one of the contemporary trends in healthcare architecture. Recreating a home-like atmosphere for long-term patients has been a key pursuit of design experts.

Traditional healthcare centers have white walls, fluorescent lights, and pale colors. These often make a patient feel uncomfortable. By using warmer color tones, allowing in more sunlight, and changing the décor of the room from somber to lively, hospitals can provide a homey feel for their patients, which will ultimately benefit recovery.

(Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

By using warmer color tones, allowing in more sunlight, and changing the décor of the room from somber to lively, hospitals can provide a homey feel for their patients. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Scalable rooms are another huge trend in the field. As the name suggests, a scalable room will use hybrid solutions like a sofa-bed or recliner that can easily create extra space in the rooms should visitors arrive in large numbers.

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our weekly email

Maestro Playing Classical Symphonies on the Streets of Melbourne
Quandong: An Australian Superfood Loved by Aborigines