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Evolution of Hospital Design: From Ancient Roots to Modern Innovations

Did you know…that hospitals weren’t even a thing until around 400 BCE. Well, that might not be a fact, but the earliest well-recorded example of such a place was around then. In Sri Lanka!

Mihintale Hospital, Sir Lanka - Courtesy of EOS CU

But until the 19th century, hospitals were used solely for the poorer classes. These were generally run by churches or religious groups, as a charity for the poor.

These spaces were called patient wards, where religious institutions would just care for the sick. Actual physicians were treating higher-class people in their homes. And as the patient wards expanded over the years the lack of real physicians and the unsanitary conditions of overcrowded wards became a source of diseases that spread. Essentially these wards were just there to care for the sick until death came in. Instead of trying to find the problem and fixing it.

But this started to change in the 1800s when Florence Nightingale began to study the design of these buildings and laid out all the problems with solutions.

With this new knowledge, facility designers and architects now had a far better understanding of how germs spread, fresh air’s play in healing, and more. This meant designs were starting to see more sanitary designs and practices.

Finally, as Jeanne Kisacky, Ph.D., MA, March, of AMA Journal of Ethics, said hospitals underwent a much-needed transformation, going from a “place to be sick and die” to “a place to live and get well” (Jeanne Kisacky, 2019).

Charitable, religious wards were slowly replaced with medical institutions.

1947 saw the 1st publication of standards of hospital designs, in America.

This introduced a new version of healthcare facilities that weren’t just for patients, but also physicians. Many of these facilities became places to heal the sick and where physicians could improve their knowledge and skill sets.

Along with the introduction of new technologies and specialized equipment such as x-rays, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, and more, came the introduction of lecture rooms, collaborative meeting spaces, physicians’ lounges, medical libraries, and private physicians’ offices (Jeanne Kisacky, 2019).

This meant introducing more furniture and equipment than the original designs.

The introduction of lounges, libraries, and more comfortable spaces for patients, lead to the introduction of soft seating in hospitals.

Places for the physicians to rest their feet, or a patient to sit up, instead of laying in bed all day. That’s Flexxform’s cup of tea…!

As COVID-19 makes designers and architects rethink hospital designs all over again, more improvements are predicted to be introduced to healthcare facilities. Creating places that promote healing instead of sending dread, starts with ensuring the patients and doctors can be comfortable.

Start on that journey by adding soft seating to patient lounge rooms, waiting rooms, the medical library, physicians’ lounges, and anywhere else you might think up!

Reach out to us for more information and a quote today –


Georgia-Pacific Building Products. (n.d.). THE HISTORY OF HEALTH CARE FACILITY DESIGN – AND HOW IT INFORMS THE FUTURE. Retrieved from Georgia-Pacific Building Products:

Jeanne Kisacky, P. M. (2019, March). An Architectural History of US Community Hospitals. Retrieved from AMA Journal of Ethics:

Mitchell, E. (2022, May 18). Hospitals and Evidence-Based Design Part 1: Early History. Retrieved from EOS CU:

Murphy, M. (2021, December 20). The secret to hospital design was solved 150 years ago. Why did we ignore it? Retrieved from Fast Company:


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