The design of high-tech and efficient health care facilities that promote the delivery of modern medicine is being explored at Texas A&M University. George J. Mann, professor of architecture, his colleagues and their students are dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of patients by probing ways to improve the design of hospitals and clinics across the globe.
Mann, whose teaching career at Texas A&M enters its 46th year this September, says a forward-thinking philosophy in health care facility design is a “must” in this ever-changing industry. “We can’t practice 21st-century medicine in 19th-century buildings,” he says. “Health care is continually evolving, and architecture-for-health must adapt to the new environment and the new demands this brings.”
Texas A&M’s health facilities design focus attracts students from all over the world and Mann believes it’s because the department takes a real-world approach to the study of design, engaging students in actual case study projects with clients who have real needs, sites and requirements.
Since coming to Texas A&M in 1966, Mann has educated a new generation of architects who specialize in designing smart, cutting-edge health care facilities that nurture patient recovery while facilitating the numerous and ever-changing demands of modern medicine. Today, Mann’s former students staff health care design studios, and are counted among the principals of the world’s leading architecture firms.
Founder of the Architecture-for-Health studios at Texas A&M, Mann has led students in the design of more than 700 health care-related research and design projects throughout the world, including rural hospitals in Tanzania and the Sudan, an eye hospital in China, and facilities in locales across the U.S., including a clinic in San Antonio that provides affordable health care for the under and uninsured. The studios are offered as part of the graduate and undergraduate degree curricula by the Department of Architecture.
Mann, the first holder of the Skaggs-Sprague Endowed Chair of Health Facilities Design at Texas A&M, was recently named director of the International Union of Architects Public Health Group, an organization of architects from 40 nations around the world who are devoted to research in the area of improved health care buildings and environments.
Joining Mann in his mission to improve health care environments are his colleagues in the Center for Health Systems & Design (CHSD), a collaboration between the Texas A&M College of Architecture and The Texas A&M Health Science Center that promotes research, innovation and communication in health facility planning and design.
Mardelle Shepley, professor of architecture and director of the CHSD, joins Mann and several dozen faculty members from a variety of disciplines as CHSD fellows. Shepley says the CHSD fellows serve a three-prong mission: research, service and teaching. As a research center, the CHSD is primarily involved in the creation of new knowledge that benefits health facility designers and health care providers. CHSD faculty champion evidence-based design, or design informed by research.
The topics of research among faculty fellows include, for example, the effects of stress on patient health and the design of healing environments for such patients as infants, children and the elderly. “We are also conducting research in active living,” says Shepley. “Active living design is an approach to building environments that are designed to promote healthy activity, such as walking.”
Health design students often work with real-world clients and practicing architects on design projects ranging from children’s hospitals to assisted living facilities. For example, “graduate students in industrial engineering and architecture recently teamed up to design a new baby incubator,” Shepley notes.
Suyong Jim, a graduate student in architecture, created a preliminary design for a new children’s hospital in Richmond, Va. as a final study project for a Dallas-based architecture firm. The Children’s Hospital of Richmond will be built on the Virginia Commonwealth University medical campus from a final design by HKS Inc.
For her part, Shepley focuses on intensive care for children and babies, and “how to modify the environments for parents to be around their babies as much as possible.” Shepley studies whether such modifications improve the young patients’ health and well-being.
Like Mann, most of the other CHSD faculty fellows teach design studios focused on health-related design problems. For example, Susan Rodiek, associate professor of architecture and a faculty fellow at the CHSD, teaches undergraduate design studios and this year, her students swept a national nursing home design competition called “Renewing Home”.
The College of Architecture’s focus on health care design started with Mann in 1966, when one of his former Columbia University professors, Edward J. Romieniec, became the first dean of Texas A&M’s College of Architecture. Recalling Mann’s interest in health design as a student at Columbia, Romieniec invited him to spend one year at Texas A&M, creating an architecture-for-health program. The result was the Architecture-for-Health studios, and what was supposed to be a 12-month stay for Mann stretched into more than four decades in Aggieland.
Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University;
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