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[Feature]‘Hospitals are not just buildings’Konyang University nurtures specialized hospital architects for 1st time in Korea
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2017.10.06 06:00
  • Updated 2017.10.06 00:20
  • comments 0

Hospital buildings are differently designed from ordinary buildings. Hospitals offer space for medical treatments as well as living for patients. Hospitals also require space for medical equipment. Korean hospitals learned the hard way how space should not be simply divided by functions when they were severely hit by the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015. Their experience helped them realize that hospital buildings should not be designed the same way as ordinary buildings.

Unfortunately, Korea does not have many specialists in hospital architecture. Hospital architecture did not receive much attention from the medical service industry until large general hospitals such as Samsung Medical Center and Asan Medical Center were established in the late 1990s.

Konyang University건양대 became the first in Korea in 2013 to establish Medical Space Design & Management Department to nurture specialists in hospital architecture and management. The university had begun preparing it since March 2012, when it integrated the existing Architecture Department and Interior Design Department. In March in 2013, it fixed the department’s name as the current Medical Space Design & Management Department.

The department gives two choices to juniors – to major either in medical space design or management of medical space. To help students build hands-on experience, the school recently moved its College of Medical Engineering, including the Medical Space Design & Management Department, to the Daejeon Campus where Konyang University Hospital is located. Konyang University Hospital’s new building, to be completed by 2020, is the best practice site for students of the medical space design department.

Konyang University not only makes use of the Konyang University Hospital but collaborates with other general hospitals such as Severance Hospital, Samsung Medical Center and Chungnam University Hospital to offer internships for students. The department also offers programs to learn know-hows from major Korean builders such as Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Samsung C&T and Kyeryong Construction, which lead the hospital architecture sector in Korea.

During the second semester of the junior year, students are given opportunities to design a hospital building. Last year, students designed a 300-bed hospital in Daejeon. Students also designed a ward to enable integrated service from registered nurse and caregivers. Both works were on display at the Korea International Medical & Hospital Equipment Show at COEX in Seoul in March.

Korea has many universities that have both architecture department and a hospital. However, Konyang University is the only school with a department that combined the two. Korea Biomedical Review met with Lee Hyun-jin이현진, a professor of Konyang University’s Medical Space Design & Management Department, to learn why the school set up a new department for hospital architecture and what goals it seeks to achieve.

A local hospital, designed by students of Medical Space Design & Management Department at Konyang University, was exhibited at the Korea International Medical & Hospital Equipment Show at COEX in Seoul in March.

Question: Why did the school establish a new department for hospital architecture?

Answer: It was only the late 1990s when Korea started to see a boom in hospital construction with the rise of the major medical institutions such as Samsung Medical Center and Asan Medical Center. Before then, local architecture companies could not build a hospital. They were just supporting some works for foreign designers from the U.S., the U.K., and Japan to fit their architecture to Korean environment. It was after the late 1990s when Korean designers of hospital building started to emerge.

It is quite demanding to design a hospital. The designers should know each characteristic of medical divisions, patients, and diseases to provide the right space. There is no single type of patients. Various patients suffering from different diseases as well as medical workers are moving inside a hospital. Architects for ordinary buildings find it difficult to design a hospital.

In the U.S., there have been many medical planners who specialize in hospital architecture. But in Korea, only a handful of large architecture firms have just begun settling in. This university saw the need for specialized medical planners, which ordinary architecture department or interior design department could not nurture. That’s how we established the Medical Space Design & Management Department.

Q: The concept of medical space design is still quite new in Korea, isn’t it?

A: True. If we say space design, people usually associate it with interior design only. But it’s more than that. Space design has so much potential because it can be applied to every space we live in. Although several universities have established departments for space design, none of them combined it with medical service. We combined the concept of space design and medical service.

Q: Why do we need medical planners who specialize in hospital architecture?

A: Let me take an example of the new structure that Konyang University Hospital is building. We have spent a whole week to decide where to put the radiology division because its location decides the moving lines of patients, who mostly take X-rays, as well as medical workers. The locations of emergency rooms, operation rooms, wards, and elevators should also be meticulously designed for similar reasons.

Each division is being enlarged to a center these days. Some medical equipment requires 1-meter thick concrete walls to protect people from radiation. We also have to install shielding screens. We have to consider quick changes in advanced medical equipment, too.

Hospitals should be designed according to the needs of patients and medical workers together. Medical personnel should not work under stress to provide high-quality medical service. We all should ponder upon how beds should be laid out to prevent falls and where to put sinks so that doctors can easily wash their hands.

A little careful look will tell you how hospitals are different from ordinary buildings. Unless the architect has in-depth knowledge about medical equipment and medical divisions, he or she will find it difficult to design a hospital. That is why we opened Korea’s first medical space design department.

Q: Since the MERS debacle, regulation on hospital facilities has been toughened. Doesn’t the government policy affect hospital design as well?

Professor Lee Hyun-jin of Konyang University’s Medical Space Design & Management Department explains the department’s role and prospects, during a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review.

A: The MERS outbreak prompted the medical industry to pay more attention to infection control. The medical service law has been revised, and new measures such as integrated service from nurses and caregivers have been adopted.

Accordingly, it will affect hospital design and interior design. Due to the introduction of the integrated service from nurses and caregivers, the number of nurses will rise. Then, we will have to minimize the moving lines of nurses by changing the location of nurse stations. Because the government policy has a direct impact on hospital architecture, students in our department should study medical policies, too.

Q: Why does your school build partnership with other large hospitals to offer the internship for your students, when you have Konyang University Hospital right next to the department?

A: Konyang University Hospital alone cannot be a model for different types of hospitals and various ways of hospital operation. Accumulating extensive experience at many hospitals will help the students. They will have an opportunity how those facilities are working, which cannot be observed from outside.

Q: Observing a new hospital being built by Konyang University Hospital would be an educational opportunity for students, wouldn’t it?

A: In fact, our department is also participating in the construction of the new hospital. We can share some of the opinions being discussed throughout the construction. We discussed with students how the new hospital could be designed, before the selection of the architecture firm. Although students’ ideas were not reflected in the actual design 100 percent, their observation of the construction will be a good chance to learn.

Q: Konyang University’s Medical Space Design & Management Department is pioneering a new road. What kind of goals do you have?

A: It was not an easy task to integrate two different departments into one for a special purpose. It was possible because the university supported it. We also have visions. All we need is a little more time. It will take some time, but our graduates will become professional medical planners. Our department should also consider some other aspects, such as government policies, in helping the students become good medical planners.


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