PhD Project: Functional Textiles in Hospital Interiors - An Exploratory Study of the Technical and Aesthetic Design Qualities of Interior Textiles in Hospital Design

  • Mogensen, Jeppe (Projektdeltager)
  • Fisker, Anna Marie (Projektdeltager)
  • Poulsen, Søren Bolvig (Projektdeltager)
  • Jensen, Hanne Troels (Projektdeltager)
  • Jørgensen, Poul-Erik (Projektdeltager)



This PhD thesis explores the possibilities and design qualities of using functional textiles in the interior of hospital environments, and is the result of a three-year collaboration between Aalborg University, Department of Civil Engineering, and VIA University College, VIA Design. The thesis consists of a collection of 5 peer-reviewed papers, and an extended summary.

The project is overall related to the construction of new Danish hospitals, where the design concept healing architecture is introduced in a national context, representing the vision of a promoted healing process of hospitalised patients supported by design related influence. Past research studies provides evidence that the physical environments affect the patients' level of stress and influence their process of recovery and healing. However, although research in this field of hospital design has increased substantially in recent years, knowledge on the use of interior materials and textiles are still rather limited.
Contemporary hospital design has been widely criticised of being too institutional and clinical, and one of the main reasons for this experience may be related to the use of 'cold', hard-surfaced materials of plastic, vinyl and steel. These materials also domi­nate the new hospitals, designed and constructed these years, and despite the increased focus on the design concept healing architecture, the rational requirements of efficient cleaning and maintenance still seems to direct the interior design of hospital environments.
However, in architectural and design related theory, materials are linked closely to the perceived atmosphere of spaces, and a better awareness on the aesthetic material qualities are considered needed to accommodate the visions of healing architecture.

Traditional textiles that earlier have been used in hospital interiors, have in previous studies been associated with increased risks of hospital acquired infections, and in hospitals today they are therefore replaced by plastic-coated upholsteries. These plastic materials may improve the cleaning efficiency, but it often side-effects the aesthetic experience and contribute to the perception of a clinical and institutional environment. The hygienic concerns of hospital interiors are naturally essential, but the field of functional textiles has in recent years emerged rapidly. New types of textiles can thus be designed with added functionalities that for instance provide the textiles with a hygiene-improving surface; properties that might enable the use of textiles in future hospital interiors.

Knowledge on the use of these functional textiles in hospital interiors is still limited, but concerned with the immediate potentials, the purpose of this PhD project has been to explore the possibilities and design qualities of using these materials in hospital interior design. Relating to both technical and aesthetic aspects of using functional textiles in hospitals, the project seeks to integrate these aspects, departing from the overall research question:

What are the technical possibilities of using functional textiles in Danish hospital interiors, and how can interior textiles contribute with aesthetic qualities that promote the patients' experience of the hospital interior?

The research question is explored in two main parts of the project, relating to the technical and aesthetic qualities, respectively.
Through empirical and theoretical background studies in the technical and aesthetic domains of the project, a range of hypotheses are defined for testing in experimental studies. The technical background studies introduce the field of functional textiles and define the requirements and demands for the use of textiles in hospital interiors. The technical experimental studies then demonstrate that it is possible to use the functional textiles and comply with the national Danish standards and guidelines for hospital cleaning and disinfection, if new logistic processes are developed.
In the aesthetic part of the project, the aesthetic qualities of using textiles in hospital interiors are explored and accentuated through a theoretical framework, related to the concept of atmospheres. Familiarity and tactility are here deduced as two main design qualities that may improve the patients' experience of the hospital interior, and in the experimental studies these aesthetic qualities are contextualised in empirical studies conducted at two Danish hospitals.

Through these different studies, the PhD thesis addresses the technical and aesthetic design qualities of using functional textiles in hospital interiors, and summarises this explora­tory approach by proposing an integrated model that accentuates these design qualities. Based on the findings of this project, additional research studies are proposed to further progress the development within the field of functional textiles for future hospitals.
Effektiv start/slut dato01/06/201230/09/2015


  • VIA University College (Projektpartner)


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