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Art & Architecture: Preferred Hospital Art in Italy

ART IN ARCHITECTURE AT A LOW

Passing by the ubiquitous strip malls of our daily commute, it’s easy to wonder, “What’s happened to the art of architecture?”

Sure it’s cheaper and more efficient to build these boxy, plastic, and frankly ugly buildings, but this is almost certainly a case of getting what you pay for. Ugly architecture puts people in a state of mind, and it's not a good one! Driving away tourists and consumers (or just making them cranky) can’t be good for business.

People who take the long-view will find that the benefits of artful architecture will outweigh the costs.

ART IN OLD ITALIAN HOSPITALS

Oddly enough, we can speak similarly of hospitals in Italy. Back in the day, Italian hospitals and art came hand in hand. Take the frescoes in the Santa Maria della Scala from the 1300s (now a museum), the lineup of painted sculptures from the 1500s at the hospital of Ceppo in Pistoia, or the decorated cloisters at the Policlinico of Milan in the 1400s.

Nowadays though, hospitals in Italy are much like the stereotype – white, cold, sterile. The US knows this format all too well.

THE BENEFIT OF ART IN HEALING

The US isn’t the only one discovering that art is about more than aesthetics, and also affects patient outcomes. There is plenty of evidence that art, especially nature imagery, is specifically beneficial to perception of pain, lowering stress, and improving health outcomes.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to involve tearing down structures and building more artful ones, but simply adding art to the interior. Just make sure it’s the right kind of art (I can help).

NATURE ART AND HOSPITAL PERCEPTION IN ITALY

Take a study done in cancer centers throughout Italy in 2006, a project called “Beyond traditional treatment: Establishing art as therapy.” Hundreds of patients were tested on their perception of the hospital environment. The researchers did a basic before and after test, with treatment rooms being empty or full of photographs.

Patients favored natural landscapes the most, and abstract art the least. Here's the specific ranking order of preference:

  1. Nature landscapes
  2. Animals
  3. Scenes of everyday life
  4. Portraits
  5. Urban landscapes
  6. Abstract

(Learn more about why abstract art is not recommended for healing spaces here).

So while the evidence is quite convincing that art benefits patients, don't just slap up any art that you can find. Certain types of art can actually cause more stress! That's why all the art in my Healing Art Cart is vetted according to Evidence-Based Art research to ensure they include elements for reducing stress and helping patients heal better and faster.