The Hospital Building as Project and Matter of Concern: The Role of Representations in Negotiating Patient Room Designs and Bodies

Chris Harty, Kjell Tryggestad

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Mock-ups, scale models and drawings are ubiquitous in building design processes, circulating between various stakeholders. They contribute to the gradual evolution of design, but what else can specific material forms of representations do for the building design and project? The full-scale model of a hospital single-bed room can be different in terms of detail and medium, but in what sense might it perform different and similar functions? The mobilization of multiple forms of representations and visualizations suggest that design materialization might have several important roles to play in negotiating the building design and project, including the exposition and resolution of controversy concerning size of spaces and bodies. The paper compares the use of two different forms of representation of the same imagined space—a single-bed room in a hospital, and produced for similar purposes—to ascertain what the optimum (or minimum) spatial requirements should be to allow effective care of patients. The first representations are physical mock-ups of a single-bed room for Danish hospitals where actual medical and logistical procedures are simulated using real equipment and real people. The second is a three-dimensional augmented reality model of a single-bed room for a new hospital in the UK, using a Cave Automatic Virtual Environment where the room is reproduced virtually at one-to-one scale, and which can be explored or navigated using head-tracker technology and a joystick controller. Drawing on Latour's concepts of matters of concern and matters of fact, we compare these two cases to provide insights into the way different media produce specific senses of the design or imagined space, with consequences for on-going design work, and for the settling of controversy over the sizes of spaces and bodies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEngineering Project Organization Journal
Issue number2-3
Pages (from-to)95-105
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this