“I want to do as much healthcare as I can before I croak,” Graves said during his March 26 lecture, “A Case for Humanistic Solutions in Healthcare Design” at the New York School of Interior Design. “There's no time for us to waste.”
Graves' personal odyssey took him through eight hospitals and four rehabilitation centers. Through it all, his aesthetic senses remained sharp. “It's too ugly, I can't die in here,” he said at the time.
Graves was infuriated by many features of the facilities where he received care. For example, at a rehabilitation center where nearly all the patients used wheelchairs, the mirrors and faucets were designed for people standing.
Graves asked his surgeon, “Who designed this center anyway?” “Experts,” the doctor replied.
Graves put his concepts to work in the Wounded Warrior Home Project at Fort Belvoir, Va. He helped design residences for disabled U.S. Army personnel who remain on active duty.
The homes feature curb-free showers, adjustable-height kitchen countertops and air conditioning controlled via smartphone.
In general, he said, too many hospitals are built around a four-story central atrium designed as a showplace to hang plaques honoring their donors. He argues instead for creating spaces that offer patients the comforts of home while they are away from home.
Graves' architectural colleagues are intrigued by his healthcare work. “It's interesting to see him step into the healthcare design world and to take the patients' perspective,” said Henry Chao, a principal and healthcare design director for HOK architects in New York.
“He wants to redesign healthcare starting with the patient bed. That's profound,” said Ellen Fisher, dean of the New York School of Interior Design.
Graves stressed that healthcare providers and designers need to see their work from the perspective of patients. At his lecture in New York last week, a student asked him for advice on how to learn more about patient-centered design.
“Your eyes have to be open,” he replied.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks