Middle East hospital design ‘should account for cultural factors’

Healthcare facilities should take into account higher numbers of visitors to patient rooms, BuroHappold and AGi Architects say

PHOTO: Many aspects of hospital design, such as the size of operating theatres or diagnostic spaces, do not differ much across countries - but this isn’t the case for patient bedrooms. Credit: Shutterstock

Healthcare design in the Middle East needs to take into account cultural factors, such as higher numbers of people visiting patients compared with in other parts of the world, experts say.

Although many aspects of hospital design, such as the size of operating theatres or diagnostic spaces, do not differ much across countries, this isn’t the case for patient bedrooms and some other areas, says Simon Bourke, director of healthcare at BuroHappold, an engineering consultancy.

“As an international engineer, you have to be very attuned to specific cultural requirements,” he told “In the Middle East and India and quite a lot of other cultures, the idea of the extended family… is extremely important.”

This means that what may be considered the norm in one part of the world when designing hospitals doesn’t necessarily lend itself to other countries or cultures, he added.

If higher numbers of visitors on average are to be expected, then this would affect aspects of the hospital design such as the size of bedrooms or elevators.

“You could get it badly wrong if you’re only expecting two or three visitors per day and actually you might be getting eight. It could end up with big queues in the lobbies to get through up to the in-patient areas, so things like that you have to be very sensitive to,” Bourke said.

Dr. Nasser B Abdulhasan, principal of Kuwait-based AGi Architects, echoes Bourke’s comments about the importance of factoring in culture when building hospitals in the region.

“If someone is [having] surgery, there’s a much larger number of family members waiting outside for as many hours as needed because the society functions in that fashion, and that has to be addressed in any design.”

Hospital design guidelines, which have been extensively developed in countries like the US and UK, do not factor in cultural requirements, Abdulhasan and Bourke noted.

“If you’re using, for example, UK or American regulations for the Middle East, you have to be conscious of some of the thoughts behind those regulations and why they may need to be adapted,” Bourke said.


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