Designed For Health? The Hospital As Boutique Hotel

A new cancer ward reignites the question of why our hospitals have to look like hospitals.

As any cancer survivor will tell you, a positive diagnosis is not a death sentence. So why do so many hospitals already feel like a morgue? This was the question that Lucy and Tobie Snowdowne, the duo behind British studio Two Create, wrestled with when they were hired to imagine a new cancer ward in Birmingham, England. After conducting interviews with patients themselves, the Snowdownes diagnosed one potential cure for the common clinic: They made it look like a boutique hotel.


With the increased focus on health care over the last few years, there have been lots of recent attempts to make over the hospital: NORD Architects has proposed to make a Copenhagen hospital feel more like a village. Dutch architect Koen van Velsen has tried to make an Arnhem clinic feel more like a forest. Herman Miller has introduced new hospital product designs reimagined as office furniture.

The architects designed several medical grade bespoke objects.

Hired by the Teenage Cancer Trust to create a space for 12 teenage patients in the recently built Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, Two Create focused less on the architecture and product design and instead reimagined the traditional interior design of a hospital. And in addition to iPod docks and furniture from SCP and Vitra, they designed a few bespoke objects: an end table to allow patients to carry IVs easier, a sofa made with the softest anti-microbial fabrics, and die-cut sheet magnets that patients can use to personalize their rooms. And anyone who has seen patients roaming the halls, IVs in tow, trying to avoid the banality of their rooms, can appreciate the three additional rooms designed solely to be social spaces.

Known as the YPU (Young Persons Unit), the suite in Birmingham is one of 17 units that the Teenage Cancer Trust operates throughout England. You can read one of the patient’s reviews of the renovations here.