THE HUG TREATMENT
The project that made me approach the topic of healthcare architecture and psychology is called "The Hug treatment"
It was 2017 and during the Erasmus in Munich I had the pleasure to meet the architect Gemma Koppen.
When she introduced herself and spoke about the topic of the design course that had as its theme a cancer center added that the path would not be easy and that the course was reserved for a limited number of students really motivated and empathetic.
The premises did not promise an erasmus of partying and fiddling, and the fear of such a complex theme gripped me, then, empathy was not my strong suit, but I decided to enroll, poised between fear and hope of being accepted.
First class was like an AA session.
Introducing us one by one sitting in a circle.
She put us to the test, as he gave us the task of going to a thrift shop, choosing three objects and returning the next day.
The next day the classroom looked like the grandmother's house and highlighted, given the strangeness of the objects collected by each, that maybe we were not all right.
The objects had to be rigorously all painted white, and each of us had to analyze them one by one from an emotional point of view.
I honestly found this exercise particularly difficult because my emotional profile was totally overwhelmed by the rational one, but the choices were not many and I had to at least try to pretend to be interested in the other's lucubrations.
In fact, in hindsight it was nice to understand the personalities of the group through the madness of the objects brought by each of us.
This analysis exercise was supposed to lay the foundations for what would be the true design of the cancer center.
After several visits to several cancer hospitals between Rotterdam and Munich, and an accelerated psychology course in English and German, we plunged headlong into individual design.
The main goal was to create a new experience for patients that was able to make the recovery as light as possible.
It was the first time I approached a "freeform" architecture.
The curved architectures are not easy to manage but I thought "we are all a gang of crazy people in here, I let go to madness".
In fact, it was madness because the project had a very long list of functions to respect, each with a specific size.
Getting everything into a freeform wasn't exactly a game to play in your spare time.
Blunt here, curve there; after many attempts and swearing I arrived at the final form, where everything seemed to fit perfectly.
In my madness, such a form had strong motivations.
The intention was to create an extremely protective space, almost aimed at embracing you (hence the name "hug treatment"), such a form also helps the circulation inside the building because patients often have an 'alteration of the orientation (in addition to other senses).
This curved shape also helped me in order to have natural light in every part of the building, especially thanks to the internal courtyard that allows, in addition to having a filter and decompression zone inside the building, to have natural light in the heart of architecture.It was important to give control of the building to the patient who very often in hospital environments feels confused and lost.
Allowing the patient to look out 360 degrees means making him feel part of the world.
Designing a more "homie" hospital made me open my eyes to how much the environment around us can affect our mood, especially when perceptions are altered.
And that's how I fell in love with my empathic part, so well hidden and found in the corner of a thrift store.