Design & Health Research

Posted by Katherine Welsch June 25, 2015


The nation's demand for better quality health care at a lower cost has led to new challenges in the delivery of health care. At the same time, the role of the built environment on health and wellness is becoming central to evidence-based research that can help inform health care delivery.

The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis is creating a multidisciplinary research center aimed at developing new knowledge to inform health care design. With a focus on the built environment as a unifying component of health and wellness, the center will address issues posed by changing health care legislation.

"In order to make better decisions about health care, organizations need to have access to significant health design research that will allow them to assess the built environment's impact on users and outcomes," says Bruce Lindsey, dean of the Sam Fox School's College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design. "Our mission is to use design research methods to develop new knowledge that leads to innovative solutions for improving the experience of health and delivery of care from the community to the hospital and back."

The center will consist of a consortium of members and institutions, including academic partners from a range of fields at Washington University, delivery providers, design practitioners, and professional organizations. The School is currently seeking a professor of practice to lead research projects and assist with the center's formation.

"This is the kind of research that is ideal for the interdisciplinary mission of the School," says Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School. "Within the School itself, we are able to draw on expertise in research and practice in architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, communication design, and art to contribute to this important collaborative endeavor. Set within the context of a top-tier research university, we are well-positioned to work with colleagues in other disciplines across campus—including at one of the best medical schools in the world—along with a robust architectural medical practice community and leaders in health care delivery throughout the region."

Through a holistic, evidence-based approach to design, the center will address problems as wide-ranging as the built environment and information design, to interactions and relationships among patients, doctors, and nurses.

Inaugural funding has been received to initiate three projects that include project and testing environments, partnerships with local health and design professionals, and the retention of lead investigators and graduate students. Team members will evaluate multiple data points to define challenges and test specific interventions in order to inform design in health care delivery. In addition to disseminating these findings to partners and the public, the center will serve as a repository for data and research.

Interested in learning more about the center? Contact Enrique Von Rohr at

Call for Applications: Professor of Practice

The Sam Fox School is currently seeking a leader in the field of health design research for the position of professor of practice. For full consideration, application materials should be received by August 3, 2015.
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