MMEK and UNStudio Collaborate to Create World’s Best Children’s Hospital

UNStudio and user-experience design firm MMEK have teamed up on a mission to design the best children’s hospital in the world.

A well-designed hospital can have a big effect on a patient’s wellbeing, treatment outcome and recovery time. Everything from the layout of the space itself to lighting, use of colour and noise levels can impact on a patient’s experience at a health facility – and make it easier for staff to deliver the best care possible.

With this in mind, infrastructure for medical care is about much more than building hospitals with larger wards and more beds. This infrastructure needs to facilitate the best possible care, which includes special considerations for pediatric patients.

In a joint effort, user-experience design firm MMEK and our team at UNStudio are developing a pitch for the best children’s hospital in the world, with the intent to get jointly contracted to bring the concept to life.

We believe that designing infrastructure for healthcare requires a holistic approach in which we combine the concepts of ‘cure’ and ‘care’.

“When designing hospitals for children we foremost need to consider how to add development-centered care in practice by rethinking the work processes, considering ‘care’ as part of the primary processes and adding dedicated spaces focused on that,” said Ben van Berkel, UNStudio’s founder and principal architect.

Martijn Meeske, co-founder of MMEK, added: “This goes beyond thinking about the child as the user alone. The social context of a child – its family, friends and school, needs to be actively integrated in the process, becoming a part of the spatial organisation as well.”

The anatomical, physiological and psychosocial differences between adults and children also need to be taken into consideration when designing pediatric hospitals.

“The first differences are obviously physical: the eye-level of children differs greatly from adults, and the proportion to the environment is a different one. For growing children this proportional relation to space is even a changing one,” said Astrid Piber, a partner and senior architect at UNStudio.

“The main differentiator however is the fact that children are still very much in development. For young patients it is crucial that during their stay at the hospital their development is intuitively supported by letting them play, explore, move and discover,” added Lars van Hoften, architect and associate at UNStudio.

With this in mind, we also know that the care provided can’t be standardised.

“When it comes to ‘caring’ for people from a human and an emotional perspective, less standardisation is often better. As such, we would ask how healthcare can become more inclusive through design, encompassing groups like the elderly and young children specifically,” said MMEK co-founder Erik van Kuijk.

This inclusive design thinking starts with understanding the smaller details in order to design for the bigger picture.

“Scale, material, space and play all matter when creating a children’s hospital that accommodate healthy places that support healing, enhance the overall experience and allow children to grow,” Kuijk added.

UNStudio and MMEK both have experience designing for the healthcare sector. UNStudio has previously designed a proposal for the Moeder Kind Centrum (Mother Child Centre) in The Hague, Netherlands, as well as a masterplan for a healthcare community in Bruzzano, Italy, where hospitals, rehabilitation centres and other health services are integrated and easily accessible.

As part of its extensive portfolio, MMEK has previously developed an integral interior design vision for the Princess Maxima Center, a pediatric oncology facility in Utrecht, the Netherlands, as well as a reversed design-process for the new patient rooms at the Amsterdam University Medical Clinic (UMC), and the development of a masterplan for the new outpatient clinic for the same hospital.