Brighton’s reputation as an eighteenth century health resort gave birth to architectural forms shaped by both the efficacy of the seawater and the economic profile of its inhabitants. Evidence of a town overflowing with architectural inventiveness was nowhere more apparent than in John Nash’s Pavilion, commissioned in its current form by the famously obese Prince Regent in 1815.
During the First World War the Pavilion was transformed into a progressive military hospital and transfixing photographs soon emerged of Indian servicemen recuperating in its opulent, Indo-Islamic spaces. This audacious solution to a looming medical crisis dramatically highlights the potential of inspiring architectural environments as an integral part of healthcare.
The clinics and surgeries most of us encounter are made, adapted and sustained in a political, economic and aesthetic environment where functionality rules and cost is king. For the built environment to play its part in wellbeing, healthcare architecture must broaden its scope by moving away from reactive, over-regulated design towards more imaginative approaches.
By proposing spaces that are uplifting, inclusive, social, playful and beautiful we are also inviting opposing cultures to work together. Healthcare architecture that faces outwards, is shaped by its users and draws on local resources has the potential to be both economically positive and to transform lives.