How Do Architects Think? – An Eye Opener

It’s a sad truth, but many societies tend to belittle the design profession.

This is normally due to a lack of information on what exactly the design process entails – on the outset, most lay people still think that “designing” merely means making something pretty. But as discussed in a previous post “What Does Designing Mean Anyway?“, we know that this is far from true.

So then, how difficult is the thinking process when you’re designing? Is it just a matter of doing a few sketches, considering a few laws, and then voila – the design is ready?

Today, we’re going to do another exercise, to demonstrate again why designers and architects are so valuable in society. Hold your judgement, and let’s go on a quick journey into the mind of an architect.

 

Studio prof

Let’s say an architect is commissioned to design a 100 bed hospital.

Let’s first get something straight – all throughout this design process, the architect will have to collaborate, interview, and check and balance with a staggering amount of people, in order to reconcile their needs, including, but not limited to:

1. The Board of Directors and Heads of Institution
2. Doctors and Nurses
3. Structural Engineer
4. Mechanical Enginer
5.. Sanitary Engineer
6. Electrical Engineer
7. Lighting Consultant
8. Acoustical Consultant
9. Fire and Life Safety Consultant
10. Sustainability Consultant
11. Project Manager
12. Construction Management Group
13. The immediate community
14. Building Administration and Maintenance Group
15. etc, etc, etc.

The point is, he is going to have to synthesize an incredible amount of information to determine the most basic program requirement that will be his first tool in the design process – the preliminary spaces list.

And speaking of the preliminary spaces list for a 100 bed hospital, it will probably look something like this:

SPACE REQUIREMENTS:

NO. ROOM TITLE SPACE DEMAND TOTAL AREA
(SQ. MTS.) (SQ. MTS.)
  ADMINISTRATIVE AREA
1.0 ADMINISTRATIVE DEPARTMENT
Lobby 45.00
Admitting Office 18.00
Affiliate’s Room and Library 45.00
Office of the Chief of Hospital w/ Toilet 36.00
Accounting Room w/ Toilet 36.00
Office of the Chief Nurse w/ Toilet 27.00
Office of the Administrative Officer w/ Toilet 27.00
Business and Finance Office w/ Toilet 108.00
Office of the Department Head – (Typical) 18.00
Conference Room 36.00
Printing and Storage Room 13.50
Public Toilet Facilities 36.00
Radio Room 9.00
MEDICAL SOCIAL SERVICE OFFICE w/ Toilet 27.00
PHILHEALTH 27.00
  Sub-Total   508.50
       
2.0 MEDICAL RECORDS ROOM    
     Office Area 22.50
     Records Area 36.00
    Toilet 4.50
Sub-Total   63.00
       
CLINICAL AREA
3.0 EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT
    Nurse Station 31.50
    Minor Operating Room 18.00
    Treatment Cubicles 22.50
    Observation Room 45.00
    Waiting Area with Stretcher Nook 18.00
    Doctor’s On Duty  Room w/ Toilet 31.50
    Nurses’ Locker Room w/ Toilet 18.00
Sub-Total   184.50
4.0 SURGICAL DEPARTMENT    
OPERATING ROOM 36.00
DELIVERY ROOM 36.00
LABOR ROOM W/ TOILET 54.00
SCRUB-UP 9.00
SUB-STERILIZING ROOM 4.50
SURGICAL SUPERVISOR’S AREA 9.00
ANESTHESIOLOGIST’S AREA 9.00
ANESTHESIA STORAGE 13.50
STERILE INSTRUMENT & SUPPLY STORAGE 13.50
CLEAN-UP ROOM 13.50
LOUNGE AREA AND LOCKER ROOMS
    Staff Locker Room and Toilet 27.00
    Staff Lounge 18.00
    Nurses’ Locker Room w/ Toilet 18.00
CENTRAL STERILIZING AND SUPPLY  ROOM 63.00
RECOVERY ROOM 72.00
INTENSIVE CARE UNIT 108.00
VISITOR’S WAITING AREA 18.00
NURSERY
    Nurse Station 18.00
    Septic Nursery and Work Room 13.50
    Suspect/Pathologic Nursery and Work Room 22.50
    Breast-feeding Room 9.00
STRETCHER NOOK AND TRANSFER 13.50
STORAGE ROOM 9.00
Sub-Total   607.50
ANCILLARY AREA
5.0 RADIOLOGY DEPARTMENT    
    Rad-Fluoro X-ray  Room 27.00
    Radiographic X-ray  Room 27.00
    Changing Rooms w/ Toilets 13.50
    Control Booth 4.50
    Dark Room 13.50
    Ultrasound Room 13.50
    Waiting Area with Stretcher Nook 27.00
    Radiologist’s Office w/ Toilet 18.00
    Staff Room w/ Toilet 18.00
    Clerical Room 13.50
    Film File Storage 9.00
Sub-Total   184.50
6.0 LABORATORY DEPARTMENT    
    Bacteriology and Serology Section 18.00
    Histopathology Section 18.00
    Urinalysis and Biochemistry Section 18.00
    Hematology Section 18.00
    Blood Doning 13.50
    Waiting Area w/ Toilet 31.50
    Pathologist’s Office w/ Toilet 18.00
    Staff Area 27.00
    Glass Washing and Sterilizing 22.50
    Storage Room 4.50
    Locker Room and Toilet 13.50
Sub-Total   202.50
7.0 PHARMACY DEPARTMENT    
    Chief Pharmacist’s Office 13.50
    Staff Work Area 13.50
    Patient Dispensing Area and Drug Info. 13.50
    Receiving/Breakout/Inspection Area 13.50
    Flammable Storage 4.50
    Bulk Storage 13.50
    Extemporaneous Preparation Area 13.50
    Distribution Area 18.00
    Staff Toilet 4.50
Sub-Total   108.00
OUT-PATIENT AREA
8.0 OUTPATIENT  DEPARTMENT    
    OPD Waiting Area 54.00
    OPD Admitting/Information Counter 18.00
    Office of the OPD Chief 22.50
    OPD Records Room 18.00
     Consultation Room (Pedia/Under Six) 18.00
    Consultation Room (Medical) 18.00
    Consultation Room (Surgical) 18.00
    Consultation Room (OB-Gyne) 18.00
    Consultation Room (Family Planning) 18.00
    Consultation Room (Dental) 36.00
    Consultation Room (ENT) 18.00
    Consultation Room (Eye) 18.00
    Minor Operating Room 27.00
    Utility Room 9.00
    Toilet Facilities 36.00
Sub-Total   346.50
IN-PATIENT AREA
9.00 NURSING
WARD NURSE STATION AND SERVICE GROUP
    Nurse Station 12.60
    Utility Area 6.30
    Linen Rooms 6.30
    Treatment Room 15.96
    Equipment Storage 3.84
TYPICAL 1-BED ROOM W/ T&B 9X18.00 = 162.00
TYPICAL 2-BED WARD W/ T&B 4X18.00 = 72.00
TYPICAL 4-BED WARD W/ T&B 2X36.00 = 72.00
Sub-Total 4X351.00 1404.00
SERVICE AREAS
10.00 DIETARY DEPARTMENT
DIETITIAN’S OFFICE w/ Toilet 22.50
RECEIVING AREA 18.00
DRY STORAGE 9.00
COLD STORAGE 9.00
EQUIPMENT STORAGE 13.50
FOOD PREPARATION AREA 198.00
SPECIAL DIET ROOM 9.00
STAFF DINING ROOM 81.00
DISHWASHING AREA 18.00
TRAY TRUCK PARK, WASH AREA 18.00
LOCKER ROOM AND TOILETS 22.50
GARBAGE DISPOSAL CUBICLE 9.00
Sub-Total   427.50
11.00 LINEN AND LAUNDRY
    Linen Office and Work Room 36.00
    Central Linen Storage 27.00
    Receiving and Sorting Area 54.00
    Washing Area 63.00
    Pressing and Ironing Area 54.00
    Toilet 9.00
Sub-Total 243.00
12.00 MAINTENANCE AND MOTORPOOL    
    Office of the Chief Engineer 36.00
    Bio-medical Equipment Room 27.00
    Mechanical and Electrical Room 31.50
    Carpentry Workshop 45.00
    Locker Room and Toilet 27.00
     Garage and Work Area 162.00
     Power House w/ Generator 27.00
Sub-Total   355.50
13.00 MORTUARY
    Lobby/Waiting Area 18.00
    Autopsy Room 18.00
    Morgue 9.00
    Locker Room and Toilet 9.00
 
Sub-Total   54.00
  TOTAL AREA   4,689.00
25-30% CORRIDORS 1,406.70
GRAND TOTAL AREA 6,095.70
  

SITE REQUIREMENTS: 

1)    Visitor Parking ——————————————– 36 slots

2)    Staff Parking ———————————————- 14 slots

3)    Service Parking (including ambulance) ————    6 slots

Mother of God

 So where do you go from here? Is your mind blanking? Intimidated by the many loose ends that have to be tied together?

Well an architect has to make sense of it all, and he is trained to do so through programming aids like tables, matrixes, and diagrams, that will be his informational guide throughout the process.

Archtiectural Programming

So as you can see, even the pre-design phase can already be a mind-blowing feat in itself – how much more when you’re trying to synthesize and constantly rebalance the information into a cohesive work of architecture?

At this point, let’s fast-forward a bit and assume that the architect has already produced his initial scheme.

Quick hospital sketch

 Let’s take a look at what is cyclically going through his mind as he evaluates his initial decisions, and moves forward with his succeeding schemes:

“Did you consider daylight factor curves? Did you think of Amihan, Habagat and Sunpath to reduce energy consumption? How about Optimum reverberation and acoustical defects that could critically maim the OR? What is the proximity of Laboratory to Radiology? Did you supply a big enough OPD to answer the uniquely Filipino demand? Did you think about the need for a small additional minor-surgery space in the Emergency department because of how it works? How are you corridors designed? How does the positive and negative pressure of airflow work with respect to the wards, corridors, and Fire Exit? Remember, a design without air pressure in mind could mean that corridor-dwellers could be exposed to TB and smoke will enter your Fire Exit. Are they single loaded? Did you use Awning Windows for the cancer-ward knowing fully well the demographic’s tendency towards suicide? How much space did you allocate? What is the minimum square meter requirement of a urinal to be humanely used? Does your grid have a column right in front of the reception desk?. Will there be a beam or p-trap lying directly over the Operating Bed? Does your plumbing layout concept take into consideration the 2% slope of the horizontal? How many circuit breakers do you have per floor? About how large does your septic tank need to be? Cistern? Overhead Tank? Did you consider the turning radius of a 13-wheeler truck for your basement ramp? Did you even consider the largest vehicle that the service zone would need for deliveries? is your basement parking laminar in flow? Did you design the building thinking about project management? When you detailed your canopy, did you decide to use river stones instead of GI sheets so the heat reflection wouldn’t cause the upper floors to become a sauna?

Is your design aesthetic cohesive? Did you use biologically sound finishes that will brighten up the spaces? Does the way you lined up your tiles unknowingly create a path that makes circulation less confusing? Do the wards have good views and vistas towards foliage and life to improve patient recovery? Are overall lighting levels producing glare on the bedside wall? Is your lobby welcoming and good for business? Did you design your ramp to the Emergency room thinking of the old crying lolo who will rush up on it, carrying his sick child? Is your form molded in such a way that its apex will be seen from 3 blocks away, right from the corner of a major road? Do your brise soleils add depth and rhythm to the facade, while at the same time protect the soffits from rain and sun? Is your form a huge block, or did you create a complex of buildings with interstitial pocket gardens, opening up corridors to beautiful views and supplying great lighting and ventilation? Are your fire signages located .3M above the floor because you know users will CRAWL in a fire? Will your building fit well into the spirit of place of the community, or will it be too intimidating?

 These are a small number of things architects are constantly considering and evaluating in their design process. As you can see, designing is an extremely complex, cyclical thinking game.

It’s a highly difficult discipline, and one that bears a lot of consequences when not done right.

So just from this snippet alone, isn’t it easy to see why architecture is one of mankind’s most awesome professions? Architects orchestrate an elevated standard of life, and they look out for you, through design. 

They’re an invisible, significant hand that drives progress.

What is design

So let’s value design, and perhaps patiently enlighten those who don’t.

Keep well, and keep learning,

Aldo

***

Let’s further the discussion! 🙂 

Please, feel free to comment below or send me an email if you’ve got something on your mind that you’d like to share. Cheers!

Did you like what you just read? There’s more where that came from! Click the image below to check out all the posts in the category of FORMATION!

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