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May 10, 1976

The Hospital: A Social and Architectural History

Author Affiliations

University of Chicago Chicago

JAMA. 1976;235(19):2140-2141. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260450052038

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This book traces the development of hospital ward design from the 11th century to the present, in western Europe and the United States. The authors focus on the changing nature of architectural design, from reliance on forms adopted from nonmedical purposes to the emergence of forms specifically designed to meet hospital needs. A mini-sociopolitical history is woven into the architectural narrative. The book successfully combines a well-written text with a generous supply of ward designs, prints, and photographs.

Two main derived architectural forms are discussed. The first developed out of the early connection between the hospital and the Church. Here, the hospital had to fit its needs around the architectural and spiritual demands of monastic life. The second derived form started in the Renaissance and reflects the palatial quality of the homes of the donors. In both cases, stylistic demands dominate over practical needs.

The book takes us through the