Interview with Kent Spreckelmeyer, Architecture Professor, University of Kansas

Studying the architecture of health and wellness at the University of Kansas

The KU Department of Architecture's Health and Wellness curriculum gives students a foundation in research and design processes that will prepare them for successful professional careers in healthcare architecture and other fields that promote human wellness. Graduates have taken up positions in many types of healthcare design, research, and planning firms and have won numerous design, research awards, grants, and fellowships while students, and after entering the design professions.

Architecture of health and wellness studies are led by nationally recognized healthcare experts Kent Spreckelmeyer and Frank Zilm, who are supported by an extensive network of the most accomplished and respected healthcare design professionals from around the world.

After successfully completing several semesters of prerequisite courses and design studios, Master of Architecture students in their final year can gain professional experience through seven-month paid internships in some of the U.S.'s leading healthcare architecture firms. Those who complete specific classes can receive a Certificate in the Architecture of Health and Wellness upon graduation. In addition to the professional Master of Architecture program, students in the Master of Arts in Architecture and PhD programs can also study health and wellness topics.

Architects have recognized the importance of good design in promoting human health and wellness for millennia. An early example is the ancient Greek's healing temple, the Aesclepion, and later parts of the monastic cloisters of the Middle Ages were designed to the enhance healing. Florence Nightingale introduced the idea of hospital wards, and today's architects might utilize the contemporary Planetree model hospital or others.

Today's healthcare designers have other kinds of sophisticated tools and techniques at their disposal. Now the relationship between design and architecture has taken on added dimensions with the advent of Evidence-Based Design research. It allows us to connect attributes of the physical environment such as noise levels, air quality, lighting, connections to nature, and the clarity of a building's layout to specific and measurable indices of human wellbeing. Giving our students the ability to understand and utilize evidence-based design principles is one of the many things we do to prepare them for success in one of the most interesting and rapidly growing fields within the architecture profession.  

Our curriculum is carefully crafted to prepare students with an essential understanding of:

  • The American healthcare delivery system
  • Theories of the relationship between healthcare and architecture
  • Progressive approaches to providing pre-design services such as strategic planning for future growth of a facility
  • Approaches to integrated practice and comprehensive project delivery
  • The need for sensitivity and critical thinking regarding healthcare design, and
  • How developing these characteristics will help our students succeed in the rapidly changing world of architecture

Our students have the opportunity to research many healthcare topics such as:

  • Inpatient and ambulatory healthcare facilities
  • Environments for special populations
  • Natural or built environments that enhance human wellness
  • Environments that support alternative healing practices
  • Neighborhoods that improve the physical, social and cultural health of the community
  • The design of Intensive Care Units

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