Filippo Taidelli, architect, talks about the new health facilities: compact, widespread, technological and designed by listening to the real needs of doctors and patients

Filippo Taidelli designed, in record time, the Emergency 19 pavilion for the hospital Humanitas of Rozzano. It is not the first time that he has worked on the conception of a health facility but, obviously, the pandemic has also revolutionized the thinking behind the conception of a care space in which man is in the center. We asked him how a hospital is designed today.

How do you become a hospital designer?

I am a pupil of Mario Cucinella: the areas of retrofit and technology were already in my ropes from the very beginning. I began to deal with the issues of health care when I took care of the headquarters and the university campus for Humanitas (one of the large private hospitals in Milan). Switching to the design of health facilities was a fluid path which clarified my interest in issues that have always been part of my work.

What is an architect's job in the healthcare sector?

In the past the architect was seen as little more than an interior decorator in such a technical and scientific field. Today, however, he is one of the key players in integrated design. He is the only one who follows the entire design process and has direct contact with the end customer and all the players in the process. In a hyper-regulated world, he manages to have an organic vision of the work, and is responsible for managing the masterplan and details at the same time, from the green design to the facilities.

The goal is to build a concrete vision on the themes of the humanization of the spaces of care. The hospital is a space at risk of rapid obsolescence, because technology, and therefore the diagnosis and treatment processes, evolve rapidly. The architect's role is to amalgamate and monitor all activities to be sure that the space is therapeutic, as well as the administration of treatments and examinations.

What does it mean to humanize the care space?

In reality, it takes very little to make someone feel in a welcoming place. Light, temperature, noise control, surface colors and the relationship with the outside. There is no contraindication, net of regulatory limits, in integrating fundamental elements for the human being within a place with high technical and professional efficiency. And it is necessary first of all for patients, but also for the people who work within the hospital.

Emergency 19 is a pavilion built in record time at a time of severe health pressure. How was it designed?

Emergency 19 is a pavilion for the management of Covid emergencies within the Humanitas structure in Rozzano and Bergamo. It is a building made up of prefabricated modules, of a type not unlike those normally used on construction sites. It is an ephemeral structure, that is, it can be dismantled and reassembled in other parts of the world.

It has large openings to the outside, shielded by a comb-like coating that protects it from light and heat. And it is designed to be an energy autonomous building, able to work even off grid. The measures that make it a place on a human scale, despite its health and emergency nature, are very simple.

The rooms open onto the surrounding landscape, the floors are made of wood, the surfaces have soft and restful decorative patterns. The technical parts are integrated in a pleasant casing. The control of air recirculation, the inbound and outbound sanitation processes, the common areas conceived as a health garden... Emergency 19 is a pavilion where efficiency and functionality are surrounded by beauty and attention to man.

Was it a co-design job?

Healthcare facilities always require direct confrontation with healthcare personnel, engineers and technicians. However, the concerted work for Emergency 19 highlighted the importance of the empathic and collaborative factor. There are rules, norms, needs with which we constantly dialogue. The willingness to make a common effort to find sensible and rapid solutions in a pragmatic and flexible way is fundamental.

I believe that the problems are solved on the ground, through dialogue. In this project in particular the comparison with doctors was very important: their ability to look at things with the patient's eyes, to put themselves in his place, not only amazed and excited me, but concretely helped to understand in which direction to work to respond to the elementary needs of those who need to be treated. And some patients, once the emergency was over, commented on the beauty of the place. This is the right direction.

Wearable devices, remote diagnosis, artificial intelligence and bioengineering are changing the face of hospitals?

Health facilities will become more and more compact, diagnostic processes will increasingly rely on portable technology, many parts of the process will be easily spread across the territory and patients will be treated at home. The technology already exists: there are regulatory limits that struggle to allow rapid evolution.

Perhaps, from an architectural point of view, it might make sense to re-evaluate the design with small closed modules, as it was done a hundred years ago. And renounce open spaces and dispersive megastructures which are difficult to manage even from a health point of view.