Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


The architecture of modern hospitals in the western world are often criticised of being too clinical and institutional, causing patient stress and general longer hospitalisation. However, in regards to the international focus on constructing new hospitals, new ideas are introduced and focus has shifted towards the design concept healing architecture, visioning an improved healing process supported by stimulating design and architecture.

In this paper we will relate to this future, and by examining the design history of textiles, we discuss how the use of textiles in hospital design can contribute to this vision of healing architecture.

Textiles in architecture has throughout history provided unique possibilities of designing flexible and spatially interesting environments; and furthermore has this manifold material improved and elevated the architectural experience with tactile character, sensuality and distinctive aesthetic qualities, incomparable to other building materials. While these characteristic qualities of textiles are likely to improve the clinical and institutional environment of modern hospitals, the hygienic concerns are strictly governing and the architectural potential of textiles are often not exploited in full. However, with new directions and innovations within the field of smart textiles, future materials has been introduced that with state-of-the-art technology can be applied in hospitals while even improving the hygiene. Departing from this on-going shift in our contextual and cultural awareness of textiles, we will examine and question how this may effect our future understanding of textiles in regards to hospital environments?

Relating to important moments in design history we seek to unfold and articulate the traditional qualities of textiles, translating and resettling them within the vision of healing architecture. By examining the past, we may learn how to exploit the new potential of textiles in creating a future, where textiles may find new applications in hospital design and contribute in supporting hospitalised patients’ healing process.