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Therapeutic spaces, when the design of the hospital environment acts as a third caregiver

Therapeutic spaces, when the design of the hospital environment acts as a third caregiver

MARCH 2021 | 3 minutes

Before the pandemic outbreak, a timid start had been made to the the revolution of public spaces, with the need to humanise them even more. Spaces that are friendlier, more inspiring, and that integrate technology. Spaces such as schools or offices and, as the star of the show, health - aka, hospitals.

There is scientific evidence proving the direct influence of architecture and spatial design on people's health. Nevertheless, the way healthcare infrastructures have been conceived has barely changed over the course of the last century and, throughout the past year, the need for these healthcare environments to be humanised has been overshadowed by a totally overwhelmed healthcare system and devastating economic and social side effects.

The post-coronavirus era cannot and should not do without a people-centred approach to healthcare spaces. Where the environment comes into play as a passive actor, as a third caregiver, which indirectly contributes elements of well-being (engines of life) in any situation, for the sick, those accompanying them or health professionals alike.

It has been shown that, by contributing to a better state of mind for the person requiring a prolonged stay in hospital, the greater their chances of recovery. This can be achieved, for example, by incorporating conditions into the interior space that in some way reflect the values of everyday life, such as living rooms (comfortable, warm, welcoming) rather than waiting rooms (more impersonal, cold and uncomfortable).

And this is how the Domum Space project came about. The first of these spaces is Domum Mar, located in the Hospital del Mar, in Barcelona, the fruit of the initiative led by the non-profit organisations Nous Cims Foundation and the Amics de l’Hospital del Mar Foundation. A space conceived, designed and built for people undergoing cancer treatment. It is a therapeutic environment developed to humanise hospital care while, at the same time, improving the emotional well-being of patients and, in turn, of health professionals, who also reap such benefits.

Domum Space creates an atmosphere of positive and restorative experiences by replacing waiting rooms with wellness spaces through emotional and therapeutic interior design that is closely linked to home design. It focuses on caring for patients and healthcare professionals, as well as families, caregivers and companions, placing them at the centre of the care they receive. The interior design bears the hallmark of Estudi Aura, formed by the Barcelona-based entrepreneurs Sonia Domingo and Julia Huysmans. Their project was selected from among more than 30 companies.


Innovation and sustainability go hand in hand in this space through the use of environmentally friendly materials. Furthermore, it has been linked to the outdoor environment (Barcelona's coastline), integrating indoor and outdoor lighting to provide warmth and intimacy; introducing living plant walls and indoor therapeutic gardens that act as a source of stress minimisation and relief from physical symptoms. Sensory stimulation has also been addressed through elements such as images of nature, relaxing sounds, aromatherapy and natural textures of fabrics and wood.

Actiu wanted to contribute to this initiative through its approach to these environments and their furniture as a tool to boost well-being. Pieces such as the iconic Badminton armchair, or the Noom and Longo soft seating solutions are capable of adapting to any environment, while always fulfilling the purpose for which they were created: offer comfort and ergonomics to people as well as a more versatile and people-centred use of waiting rooms.

The result of this first experience of Domum Space is a place that does  away with unnecessary stress, that calms, protects and fosters optimism, that increases well-being and that, without a shadow of doubt, can contribute to people's recovery. A project that is already being expanded to create new Domum Spaces, which any hospital in the country could incorporate into their facilities.