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Patients Making Place. A Photography-based intervention about appropriation of hospital spaces

Conference paper
Authors Erling Björgvinsson
Gunnar Sandin
Published in ARCH 14 - International Conference on Research on Health Care Architecture - November 19-21, 2014, Espoo, Finland - Conference Proceedings
Pages 25-42
ISBN 978-952-60-6201-3
ISSN 1799-4861
Publication year 2015
Published at
Pages 25-42
Language en
Keywords Health care, Architecture, Patients
Subject categories Health Sciences, Architecture, Design


Hospitalised patients are faced with a brute reorientation of their normal spatial needs and preferences and forced to adjust spatially to a new environment. Patients start to re-arrange their own situation according to personal needs and the site-specific circumstances. It is a re-arrangement that includes furniture, private objects and spatial positioning, but also the adjustment to the presence and needs of the staff and other patients. What types of spatial and aesthetical preferences and actions emerge in this alignment with the hospital culture and how can preferences and everyday spatial production by patients be investigated? Here, a methodological approach is suggested where patients look upon their stay at the hospital by discussing photos that they have produced themselves while hospitalised and answers to a set of questions they have written on image cards produced by the researchers in order to stimulate discussion. The investigation was carried out in 2012 at Helsingborg Hospital in Sweden. It shows that patients are primarily concerned with spatial ordering within the hospital environment and less with decorative aesthetic aspects. The study also shows that the understanding of patients’ daily occupation with shared spaces, negotiable spaces and delegated spaces would gain from further investigation of spatial appropriation and its relation to the existential necessity of spatial vagueness. In relation to this, we suggest that architectural consultation and environmental research could take into account a more varied range of views of space within the hospital environment, apart from already established categories or functions. It could be done, we suggest, practically as well as theoretically, by acknowledging certain qualities of vagueness in the continual everyday production of hospital space. By allowing meetings and negotiation between otherwise separate, contradictory or completely unheard opinions, this may in the end have a positive effect on future architectural outcomes.

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