Hospitals are one of the most stigmatized spatial typologies. Their inherent solemnity tends to extend to the design of their interiors, frequently leaving medical spaces sterile and uninspiring. But one Thai hospital, designed by studio Integrated Field, is seeking to flip that stereotype on its head: located just outside of Bangkok, EKH Children’s Hospital inspires play through design.

Tracing the design developments of recent years, Integrated Field noticed an increasing trend towards luxury hospitals. By extending opulence to hospitals, well-to-do adults have found a means to distract from the physical or existential pains of illness. Yet for sick children, the designers noted, opulent interiors hold no special value – kids care about fun over luxury.  

So, the EKH Children’s Hospital incorporates many components of playground design. A giant slide in the entrance hall welcomes children, and playgrounds-cum-waiting-areas invite them to play. For recreation, the hospital welcomes patients to swim in an ethereal cloud-topped pool. A pastel palette was employed throughout the complex to suggest a sense of whimsy.

The playful design scheme extends to the wayfinding: rather than naming rooms by hospitality-standard nomenclature such as ‘suites’ versus ‘standard rooms’, EKH Hospital chose animal-inspired names. The whale, turtle, lion and rabbit-themed rooms have their namesake creature emblazoned on the ceiling in the form of light fixtures. For the design of their residential wing, designers incorporated indirect light throughout the hallways, so as not to disturb patients with excessive brightness.

In a true nod to their intended user group Integrated Field scaled interior fittings – details such as seating, doorways and stair treads – to child-friendly proportions. Challenging typological stereotypes, EKH Children’s Hospital exemplifies playful and user-sensitive design.