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Evidence and speculation: reimagining approaches to architecture and research within the paediatric hospital
  1. Rebecca McLaughlan,
  2. Alan Pert
  1. Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebecca McLaughlan, Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia; rebecca.mclaughlan{at}


As the dominant research paradigm within the construction of contemporary healthcare facilities, evidence-based design (EBD) will increasingly impact our expectations of what hospital architecture should be. Research methods within EBD focus on prototyping incremental advances and evaluating what has already been built. Yet medical care is a rapidly evolving system; changes to technology, workforce composition, patient demographics and funding models can create rapid and unpredictable changes to medical practice and modes of care. This dynamism has the potential to curtail or negate the usefulness of current best practice approaches. To imagine new directions for the role of the hospital in society, or innovative ways in which the built environment might support well-being, requires a model that can project beyond existing constraints. Speculative design employs a design-based research methodology to imagine alternative futures and uses the artefacts created through this process to enable broader critical reflection on existing practices. This paper examines the contribution of speculative design within the context of the paediatric hospital as a means of facilitating critical reflection regarding the design of new healthcare facilities. While EBD is largely limited by what has already been built, speculative design offers a complementary research method to meet this limitation.

  • arts in health/arts and health
  • architecture
  • design
  • paediatrics

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  • Contributors The case studies discussed within this article were completed within an architectural design studio at the University of Melbourne (Masters of Architecture programme). The idea for the studio was conceived by AP and taught by AP and RM. RM prepared the manuscript and associated research while AP provided critical feedback on its development and theoretical positioning.

  • Funding This studio forms part of a wider study funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant (LP140100202).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.