April 26, 2019 Interdisciplinary Studio Explores the Future of Healthcare

One student in the healthcare studio presents her final project for the studio and visiting reviewers

Architecture and Interior Architecture students have spent the spring 2019 semester studying healthcare architecture, an emerging concentration in the design profession.

In this futuristic experience, students in Asst. Professor Liz Teston’s interdisciplinary healthcare studio, supported by AIA Middle Tennessee, have studied design at three scales:  Body, infrastructure and facilities.

Beginning with the body, students critiqued contemporary healthcare and culture and designed an item that could exist in the future, enhances the human experience and directly affects the body. For example, students considered bionic prostheses, digestible capsules, 3D printed organs and more.

“Looking into the future is exciting in general but adding specific context regarding culture and healthcare really amplifies the experience,” said Briana Willis, 4th-year Interior Architecture.

After examining design at the body scale, students worked in interdisciplinary teams to develop infrastructure proposals based on a single idea from the body-scaled design.

Willis and her partners Cameron Davis, 3rd-year Architecture, and Halie Kennedy, 4th-year Interior Architecture, designed an infrastructure of mental health facilities in Japan that would use an apparatus designed by the team to address feelings of isolation and loneliness.  The apparatus would be attached to an individual’s torso and pressure points, allowing patients to feel heightened sensory effects like a hug or laughter.

The team hopes that as patients journey to each mental health facility, they experience an improvement in their mental health.

After completing the body- and infrastructure-scaled designs, teams worked to create interior designs for a networked system of structures. The goal for these designs was to create a consistent patient experience in multiple locations, using intentional design while imagining new healthcare technologies.

“Rather than repeating currently-used healthcare design practices, I’m interested in speculation,” Teston said. “What kind of spaces will we be designing 15 years from now? In this studio, we look to the future while proposing inventive, but plausible, design scenarios.”

Healthcare architecture is quickly emerging as a prominent focus for designers. Future professionals are preparing to work within the healthcare field to design better structures and adapt design with evolving healthcare technology.

“Healthcare professionals are starting to become aware that the space patients inhabit directly affect their health and mindset toward recovery,” Willis said.

Teston based the studio in part on an article by the Economist about the future of healthcare. She made a series of propositions about healthcare in 15 years that inspired the three-scaled phases of the students’ overall proposal.

Teston partnered with AIA Middle Tennessee to establish this studio, which allowed her and her students the opportunity to travel to Atlanta and New York to visit prominent design firms that offer specializations in healthcare, including Perkins + Will, a close partner for this studio.

Teston now is working with the Perkins + Will design team to present and/or exhibit the students’ work.

The college strives to spark curiosity and encourage innovation through conceptual studios like this. Using cutting-edge technology while exploring new horizons prepares our students for the changing environment they will enter after graduation.


Read about other innovative projects in the college, like our robotics seminar and research of smart houseplants.