Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
Since the eighteenth century, the healing arts have included open-air treatments, with the field hospital at the Royal Sea Bathing Infirmary near London being one of the earliest medical care facilities on record to successfully treat patients in this manner. Florence Nightingale began applying the principles of open-air treatment to architecture when she proposed an open-ward hospital design as a means to provide pure air to the sick. Her perspective would directly influence nineteenth- and early twentieth-century hospital design, which increasingly had to address the rising incidence of infectious diseases in cities. However, hospital design in the twentieth century began to rely on mechanically conditioned air rather than open-air spaces to provide filtered ventilation and reduce particulate contamination. In the twenty-first century, even as the world faces the public health crisis of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Open-Air-Space Project conceptually revisits the open-air spaces of hospitals. The project basis is the “open plan,” whose structural origin is in part the Maison Dom-Ino system by Le Corbusier.