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Culturally Sensitive Healthcare Environments

A team led by Professor Mark Johnson (De Montfort University) was commissioned by NHS Estates in 2004 to examine the need for culturally sensitive environments in healthcare.

Adam Hardy from The Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, researched healthcare arts in relation to diversity and the provision of multifaith prayer rooms. These are some of his provisional conclusions.

Healthcare arts and diversity

  • Art works chosen for their qualities as objects, and works for which the process of creation is an end in itself, both have their role in healthcare arts reflecting cultural diversity.
  • Culturally diverse art can be enrichment for everybody, as well as something meaningful for particular groups.
  • The NHS can promote new forms of multicultural art through the development or frameworks for collaboration.
  • The display of works by ethnically diverse artists is desirable, though not per se expressing cultural diversity.
  • A culture is not something uniform and changeless, and a whole range of kinds of art is potentially available from any given culture.
  • Carefully chosen hand made art works from developing countries are better than reproductions and often no more expensive.
  • The need for stress-relieving art work in a healthcare setting should not lead to realistic nature pictures alone: the use of pattern,
  • including abstract pattern, can also be calming.
  • Future research could use art as a research tool.

Multifaith prayer rooms

  • Careful consideration, after consultation, should lead to a choice of one of three possible approaches: a neutral space, a space for each religion, a space expressing various faiths through a synthesis.
  • Design of a multifaith space can be by an architect/designer/artist, by a faith community itself, or as a collaboration with architect/designer/artist as coordinator.
  • A space for prayer, meditation and contemplation should evoke a different world from the healthcare building where it is set.
  • The qualities of light and sound should be different from standard hospital qualities in such a setting.
  • Characteristics common to many traditions of sacred architecture can be drawn upon: centrality/multicentricity, significant transitions, levels and layers.
  • The realms of healthcare arts and multifaith provision could fruitfully be brought together.