Architecture and health care: a place for sociology.

Daryl Martin, Sarah Nettleton, Christina Buse, Lindsay Prior, Julia Twigg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Sociologists of health and illness have tended to overlook the architecture and buildings used in health care. This contrasts with medical geographers who have yielded a body of work on the significance of places and spaces in the experience of health and illness. A review of sociological studies of the role of the built environment in the performance of medical practice uncovers an important vein of work, worthy of further study. Through the historically situated example of hospital architecture, this article seeks to tease out substantive and methodological issues that can inform a distinctive sociology of healthcare architecture. Contemporary healthcare buildings manifest design models developed for hotels, shopping malls and homes. These design features are congruent with neoliberal forms of subjectivity in which patients are constituted as consumers and responsibilised citizens. We conclude that an adequate sociology of healthcare architecture necessitates an appreciation of both the construction and experience of buildings, exploring the briefs and plans of their designers, and observing their everyday uses. Combining approaches and methods from the sociology of health and illness and science and technology studies offers potential for a novel research agenda that takes healthcare buildings as its substantive focus.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1022
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number7
Early online date29 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015


  • architecture;place;healthcare buildings;hospital design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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