Aug 315 min read

How to Design Hospitals: Everything you need to know!

written by

Aishwarya Bomble

Hospital design focuses on creating functional, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly spaces for patient well-being & efficiency in operations. Architects have to deal with user experience, accessibility, lighting, acoustics & circulation together to make it workable. Here are a few points to learn about hospital design.

Hospital design cover_Kaarwan.jpg


The general hospital is functionally divided into areas for examination and treatment, care, administration, social services, supply and waste disposal, and services. Additionally, there are residential areas and sometimes areas for tuition and research. The above operational areas are closely placed but operationally separate. It is necessary to maintain short horizontal and vertical connections while preserving the greatest possible flexibility and a smooth flow of traffic between all departments.

Zoning 2.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

Structure.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

Types of Hospital Designs

Hospitals are categorized according to their function. Hospital architecture is composed of various design approaches & layouts that cater to the functional needs of healthcare facilities while also considering aesthetics, patient comfort, and operational efficiency. Here are some common types of hospital design-

1. General Hospital

Traditional hospital architecture often features a central building with wings or corridors extending from a central core. This design allows for easy expansion and organization of different departments and services.

Example- General Hospital of Niger, Niger

Architect- CADI

Idea- Built in traditional language to keep the indoor environment cool in the hot climatic zone.

General hospital of Niger_Kaarwan.jpgSource - Liu Chen

2. Specialty Hospitals

Some hospitals are designed specifically for certain medical specialties, such as cancer centers, orthopedic hospitals, or cardiac centers whereas some hospitals include various departments under one roof. These facilities are tailored to the unique needs of their patient populations and medical staff.

Example- Rigshospitalet Hospital North Wing

Architect- 3XN + LINK arkitektur

Idea- Inspired by the lines on a cardiogram graph, is shaped like a zigzag and is intersected by a main ‘artery’ route.

Rigshospitalet Hospital North Wing_Kaarwan.jpgSource - Adam Mørk

3. Ambulatory Care Center

Ambulatory care centers provide outpatient services, often having a different architectural layout compared to traditional hospitals. They prioritize easy patient access, shorter visit times, and efficient patient flow.

Example- Cedars-Sinaí Los Feliz Urgent Care, LA

Architect- Abramson Architects

Idea- Designed in four boxes with different functions.

Los-Feliz-Primary-Care-Urgent-Care_Kaarwan.jpgSource - Cedars-Sinaí 

4. Psychiatric Hospital

Psychiatric hospitals have unique design considerations, including safety features to prevent self-harm, calming environments, and spaces for group therapy and individual counseling.

Example- Vejle Psychiatric Hospital, Denmark

Architect- Arkitema Architects

Idea- Building form and layout is simple considering the sensitive patients

Vejle Psychiatric Hospital_Kaarwan.jpgSource - Niels Nygaard

5. Children's Hospital

Children's hospitals are designed with the needs of pediatric patients in mind, featuring child-friendly decor, play areas, and specialized equipment for pediatric care

Example- New Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane

Architect- Lyons and Conrad Gargett

Idea- Interesting forms to promote patient wellbeing

New Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital_Kaarwan.jpgSource - Dianna Snape 

6. Palliative care Hospital

It prioritizes patient comfort, creating serene, home-like environments with private rooms, soothing colors, and adaptable spaces to facilitate compassionate end-of-life care while maintaining medical functionality.

Example- Cancer Centre at Guy's Hospital, UK

Architect- Rogers Stirk Harbours + Partners and Stantec

Idea- Services are arranged in four stacked "villages" designed to make the environment feel human-scaled and non-institutional.

Cancer Centre at Guy's Hospital_Kaarwan.jpgSource - Rogers Stirk Harbours + Partners and Stantec

7. Maternity Hospital

It focuses on providing a safe, welcoming, and comfortable environment for mothers and their newborns. It typically includes spacious labor and delivery rooms, family-friendly amenities, and infant care facilities, all aimed at ensuring a positive childbirth experience.

Example- Terra Alta Oberkirch Maternity Hospital

Architect- Dolmus Architekten

Idea- The building is a birthplace so it should appear as a residential building, not as a medical building to give a home-like feel.

Terra Alta Oberkirch Maternity Hospital_Kaarwan.jpgSource - Michael Schwiefert

Planning of the Ward 

The basic consideration in planning should be to have:

  • A patient's area with adequate space all around for positioning of specialized equipment

  • A central nurses station with minimum possible walking distance

  • Adequate stock of medicine

  • Distinct and clean utility area where the movement of staff and supplies could be minimized

    Planning of the ward.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble


Zoning shall be done to keep the spaces free from microorganisms. There can be four well-defined zones of varying degrees of cleanliness.

  • Protective zone (A): Containing mostly theatre supplies, changing rooms, pre-anesthetic examination rooms, and waiting areas.

  • Clean zone (B): It includes the casualty theatres, recovery wards, plaster rooms, theatre pack preparation, and pre-operative wards. 

  • Aseptic or sterile zone (C): It consists of operation theatres, and anesthetic and sterilizing rooms. It shall provide the highest degree of antibacterial precautions. 

  • Disposal or dirty zone (D): The soiled instruments and dressings are transacted through this for washing and re-sterilization or disposal. It includes the sluice rooms and disposal corridor. 

Zoning 1.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

Emergency Areas

Designing emergency areas in hospitals is critical to ensure the efficient and effective delivery of emergency medical care. These areas need to be well-planned and equipped to handle a wide range of medical emergencies. Here are some design requirements for emergency areas in hospitals:

  • Accessibility and Location:

The emergency area should be easily accessible from various entry points within the hospital. Ideally, it should be located near the hospital's main entrance for quick access by ambulances and walk-in patients. 

  • Efficient Layout:

Ensure a logical and efficient layout to minimize travel distances for staff and patients. Use color-coded signage and clear wayfinding to guide patients and visitors.

  • Adequate Space:

Design the area with enough space which is expandable to accommodate a variety of emergencies, including mass casualty incidents. Include separate treatment rooms for different types of emergencies, such as cardiac, trauma, pediatric, and psychiatric.

  • Patient Flow and Efficiency:

Optimise patient flow through the emergency department to minimize wait times and improve the efficiency of care delivery.


Controlled Circulation

A hospital is a complex system of interrelated functions requiring constant movement of people and goods. Much of this circulation should be controlled.

  • Patients coming for diagnostic and treatment purposes should have a separate path, avoiding areas where seriously ill inpatients are located.

  • The routes for outpatients should be straightforward and clearly marked.

  • Visitors should easily find a direct route to reach patient nursing units without passing through other functional areas.

  • The disposal of waste, recyclables, and soiled materials should be kept separate from the paths used by patients and visitors, as well as from areas where food and clean supplies are transported.

  • The transportation of deceased individuals to and from the morgue should be conducted out of view of patients and visitors.

  • Specific elevators should be designated for deliveries, food transportation, and building maintenance services.

Circulation.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

These were a few important points to remember while designing Hospitals. Stay tuned for more information on important topics in the AEC industry and follow Kaarwan for such detailed guides!

Aishwarya Bomble

Aishwarya Bomble

An architect who is always on the go to share stories of her countless journeys.