Architecture Can Heal: Spatial Literacy to Protect COVID-19 Healthcare Workers

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In April 2020, a study of The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City was conducted to better understand the challenge of adapting idealized infection control design guides to site-specific conditions during a pandemic. The study aimed to capture quick interventions that are working, offer a new hypothesis and framework to guide future design interventions, and share lessons to assist other medical facilities as they pursue their own necessary spatial adaptations moving forward. Three units repurposed for COVID-19 were studied. Using action cameras and cloud-based videoconferencing, clinicians helped designers remotely peer in real time to active COVID-19 units, create “heatmap” annotations of perceived risk by frontline clinicians, and conduct interviews with decision makers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged health care systems around the world to provide safe and effective care. Leveraging spatial design, architecture, and design hacks offers an untapped opportunity to support infection prevention and improved team dynamics, ultimately improving the safety and the effectiveness of the health care team by creating an environment that supports infection prevention and team function.

Keywords: pandemic, infection prevention, spatial literacy

Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 324–337, ISSN 1559-8918,

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