New architectural practice to further healthcare design excellence

Alessandro Caruso Architecture and Interiors Ltd illustrates owner's 'passion' for furthering patient-centred design

Alessandro Caruso has set up a new practice which will focus primarily on health and social care facilities

“The beauty of working as an architect within the specialist healthcare sector is that element of social responsibility - that you are designing facilities that will help to improve people’s wellbeing.”

The beauty of working as an architect within the specialist healthcare sector is that element of social responsibility - that you are designing facilities that will help to improve people’s wellbeing

This was the attraction of the medical marketplace for architect, Alessandro Caruso, who has recently launched a new practice that will concentrate primarily on designing health and social care facilities.

Alessandro Caruso Architecture and Interiors Ltd(ACA+I) has been set up to further Caruso’s interest in the healthcare sector.

He told BBH : “It is going to be a practice that will deal very much in healthcare design, split between private and public-funded facilities, as well as those for not-for-profit and third sector organisations.”

Caruso began his career designing mainly residential properties, but after moving to the UK from a small town in Sicily, he moved into the healthcare sector.

He explains: “This is where my core interest is. Designing healthcare facilities has become my passion and with the launch of my own architectural company I will be continuing to set a benchmark for future design excellence within this field.”

Designing healthcare facilities has become my passion and with the launch of my own architectural company I will be continuing to set a benchmark for future design excellence within this field

Previously working with Gelder and Kitchen Llp, Caruso acted as lead designer on a number of flagship health facilities, including New Green Surgery, a new primary care centre in Hull; a new mental health step-down facility in Horsham, West Sussex; a learning disability and complex care facility in Hull; and the refurbishment of the paediatric intensive care unit at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

He said: “Sometimes it seems that hospitals have lost that contact with people. We need to gain a sense of understanding of human behaviour so that we can design hospitals and health centres that meet the needs of everyone who uses them, whether they are patients, visitors or staff.”

Key to this approach is for architects to work with building users from early in the design process, he added.

“We seem to relate everything nowadays to guidelines, but they can only offer so much in terms of what the experience is going to be like,” he said.

“We need to work more closely with clients and put together an integrated design approach so the brief becomes much more defined under different angles and gives you the opportunity to develop something really great.”

Since first starting to design for the healthcare market, Caruso says the main drivers are beginning to change.

“When I started I researched a lot about colour, natural materials and daylight, the things that make a space a much healthier and more interesting place to be.

Sometimes it seems that hospitals have lost that contact with people. We need to gain a sense of understanding of human behaviour so that we can design hospitals and health centres that meet the needs of everyone who uses them, whether they are patients, visitors or staff

“But as time has moved on, the way healthcare organisations work has changed and architects now have to take into consideration things like the increasing reliance on technology. Integrating technology into building design is becoming crucial and designs have to be much more flexible, changing over time as medical practices evolve and become more flexible spaces, perhaps even adaptable to integrate other uses for the community.”

Particular attention is being paid to developing new mental health and social care facilities, areas which ACA+I will be concentrating on.

Caruso said: “There’s more we can do to make the clinical environment a bit more domestic, with adequate access to purposely-landscaped outdoor spaces.

“Rehabilitation and mental health are going to be a core interest. I am also involved in furthering research into dementia design. It is an area we are going to see a lot of emphasis on over the coming years.

“And I am working on a number of primary care feasibility studies, exploring the possibility of a more-standardised approach in this area, rather than re-inventing the wheel every time.”

The UK does need to change the way it relies on guidelines and move towards creating a healing environments based on research and experience, which is what I hope to do with the launch of this practice

The UK can take the lead from other countries, he added, when it comes to making medical centres feel less institutional.

“Countries like Finland and others in northern Europe put emphasis on facilities that have a much more domestic feel both in terms of scale and the use of materials,” he said.

“They strive to make environments more natural and less clinical and they are not so hung up on making sure everything is easy to clean or has an anti-bacterial coating. And the important thing is it does not feel like they are losing out, or that their environments pose more of a risk.

“The UK does need to change the way it relies on guidelines and move towards creating a healing environments based on research and experience, which is what I hope to do with the launch of this practice.”

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