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Five Rules on Compassionate Design

There are ten million new cases of dementia each year. Hospitals are an intimidating environment for patients and carers. Sensitive, well-designed architecture can help. In one of our handbooks we explore the subject. As a short introduction, here are five rules for designing appropriate spaces.


Text: Björn Rosen 
Hier klicken für die deutsche Version.


1. Design for everyone

Those with dementia lose their short-term memory faster than their long-term memory, which makes many people think spaces for dementia patients should remind them of earlier times. This is a problematic idea, not least because people get ill with dementia at different ages. What time period should be the point of reference for a diverse group of people? Architecture for dementia patients is successful precisely when it cannot immediately be recognised as such. Discreetness can also help reduce stigma. The spaces should work for as many kinds of people as possible. They should be aesthetically appealing and enable orientation and safety. This benefits everyone – visitors and patients alike.


2. Create visual anchors

Hospitals are large, complex buildings, and almost everything looks basically the same inside them. Even cognitively healthy people can find it hard to find their way, but they can at least create a mental map, while people with dementia cannot. It’s too much for them to visualise turning three corners in order to reach their destination. And so, it’s helpful if there is a particular design element in each of the places where patients need to decide which direction they will go. This way, they can trace their path from one point to the next. Helpful reference points might include a window that looks onto a tree-lined courtyard or a wider section in a hallway where there’s an alcove in which to sit.


3. Enable flexibility

Of course, standardisation is important in a hospital, but there should also be room for individual adjustments. It can make a huge difference for example if a patient can position their bed differently, pushing it up against the wall, because this reminds them of home and makes them feel safe and well. They might all of a sudden sleep much better! It’s also good to leave space for things that patients bring from home, such as a photo that can be hung on the wall where it can be seen. And regarding space: it’s very important to create a pleasant space for the family members and visitors, who play a very important role for patients with dementia. They should not feel like they are always in the way.


4. Think about light

As mentioned above, hospitals are complex structures, and it is difficult to illuminate all rooms and all sections of the corridors with natural light. But the more this is possible, the better. Daylight helps people keep a sense of time and improves their sleep, which is why balconies are also a desirable architectural element. When it comes to light more generally, including artificial light, one should bear in mind that eyes change later in life and lose the ability to absorb as much light. This is why it’s important to ensure that the lighting is sufficiently strong for those with dementia. Moreover, light can help them more intuitively find their way, for example, when they’re going to the bathroom.


5. Help the staff keep track

People with dementia have a tendency to wander. They feel uneasy because they do not know where they are and go searchingly walking around. This presents a huge challenge for the hospital staff. What can be done to help them? You might deliberately hide the exits of course, but that would become a safety hazard in some situations. And sensors would be an intrusion on the patients’ privacy and autonomy. Tying them to the bed is obviously not an option. A solution that often works well is to design the station such that the staff can easily keep an eye on the patients, even while doing other tasks (like paperwork). There should be a pleasant space for the patients at a central location near the staff room. 

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The fascinating story behind Moscow's Four Seasons Hotel

Myths surround this luxury accommodation and its peculiar story. For 4000 euros a night you can now stay right next to Red Square where the first Stalinist-style building once stood – it looked exactly the same.


Text: Damien Leaf
Foto: © depositphotos (skaliger)


On a booking platform, a German tourist praises the ‘great view of the Kremlin’ and an Italian extols the wellness area with its large pool. Judging by the reviews, the Four ­Seasons Moscow has satisfied customers. However, a one-night stay costs at least 800 euros and it can be 4,000 euros for the Premium Suite. The hotel with 180 rooms and suites is located between Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre and is one of the largest and most exclusive in Russia’s capital – and it has an incredible history.

The latter began in the early 1930s when the Hotel Moskva was built on the same site – it was one of the first new hotel buildings in the Soviet Union. Architecturally, under Joseph Stalin, who had been sole ruler since 1927, the country was undergoing a shift from the avant-garde to neoclassical eclecticism. Part of the shell construction was already in place when the original constructivist plans for the building by Leonid ­Savelyev and Oswald Stapran were abandoned. ‘Stalin wanted a monumental, rather classical and richly decorated building,’ says architectural historian Dmitrij Chmelnizki. The task of adapting the design to the dictator’s taste was given to Alexey Shchusev. ‘He created what can be considered the first Stalinist-style building’: an eight-column, six-storey portico with an open terrace, generous arcaded loggias in the centre of the main façade, and numerous balconies. The corners were accentuated with turrets. Bruno Taut, who was also involved in the designs, later wrote in a letter that Shchusev had taken over his floor plans, but in a distorted form.

Alexey Shchusev, born in 1873, was a special case in that he was one of the very few who had managed to rise to the top of the architectural hierarchy under the tsars and then repeat this success under Soviet rule. His name is associated with a wide variety of styles. He designed churches and the Kazan railway station in Moscow, but also constructivist buildings. He is probably best known for the Lenin Mausoleum of 1924. ‘Under Stalin, Shchusev was one of the country’s most important architects. That was cynicism, he adapted,’ says ­Chmelnizki, who recently published a critical monograph, Alexey Shchusev. Architect of Stalin’s Empire Style, on the architect. There were many myths surrounding the Moskva, the interior of which was furnished with works by the Soviet Union's most respected artists. No wonder: ‘The secret service was involved and everything was top secret. It was a hotel for foreigners and cadres, no normal Muscovite could enter.’

To this day, the legend circulates that the façade was asymmetrical because Stalin put his signature between two different designs and no one dared to ask. ‘In truth, it was just a matter of statics.’ The hotel was expanded in the 1970s, but it came to an end in the turmoil of the post-communist period. In 2002 the building was demolished for obscure reasons and against an initiative of the then Minister of Culture. Ironically, it was rebuilt almost immediately afterwards – with an asymmetrical façade true to the original.

Happy Holidays!

🇩🇪 Ein ereignisreiches Jahr liegt hinter uns: 2021 haben wir unter anderem Architekturführer zu Peking, Rotterdam, München und nicht zuletzt ganze sieben Bände zu Afrika südlich der Sahara veröffentlicht, wir haben das populäre Buch Baumhäuser neu aufgelegt und uns dem immer wichtiger werdenden Thema Quartiersentwicklung gewidmet. An dieser Stelle möchten wir uns für Ihr Interesse an unserem Programm bedanken. 2022 geht es dann weiter mit Titeln zu Halle (Saale), Algier, Feuerwehrbauten, Aquarien ...

Schöne Festtage und auf ein Wiedersehen im neuen Jahr!

🇬🇧 An eventful year lies behind us: in 2021 we published architectural guides on Rotterdam, Toulouse and last but not least on Sub-Saharan Africa, the popular title Treehouses was updated, and we presented a magnificent book on Buddhist cult buildings in Tibet and Nepal to the public. We would like to thank you for your continued interest in our publishing programme. In 2022 titles on Almaty, Boris Iofan, Diagrams, the North Caucasus will follow.

Happy holidays and see you again in the new year!

Architekturführer Almaty: Jetzt unterstützen und gewinnen

Unbekannte Metropole zwischen Europa und Asien: Gegründet im 19. Jahrhundert erlebte das frühere Alma-Ata den Aufstieg des russischen Zarenreichs, die Kolonialisierung Zentralasiens, den Fall der Sowjetunion – und bis heute ist die Stadt das kulturelle Zentrum Kasachstans. Edda Schlager lebt seit mehr als 16 Jahren überwiegend in Almaty, als einzige deutsche Zentralasien-Korrespondentin. Ihr Architekturführer über die Stadt soll nächstes Jahr erscheinen.

Wer das Buch jetzt vorbestellt, unterstützt nicht nur das Projekt, sondern wird belohnt – mit Almaty-Kühlschrankmagneten, kasachischen Filzpantoffeln, einer Stadtführung …

Alles Informationen gibt es auf Kickstarter: Klick

Unsere Autoren: Andreas Wenning, Baumhaus-Spezialist

Seit der Corona-Pandemie ist er noch gefragter als zuvor: Der gelernte Tischler und studierte Architekt aus Bremen entwirft weltweit einzigartige Räume. Nah an der Natur – und in luftiger Höhe. Nun ist die vierte, erweiterte und aktualisierte Auflage seines erfolgreichen Buchs Baumhäuser erschienen.


Text: Björn Rosen
Foto: © Andreas Wenning


Es begann 2003 zwischen zwei Buchen. Andreas Wenning war damals oft zu Besuch bei Freunden, die im niedersächsischen Bassum eine Landkommune gegründet hatten. »Ich habe mir da einfach einen Ort gewünscht, oben in den Bäumen, wo ich sein kann«, erinnert sich der 55-Jährige. Den Begriff Baumhaus hatte er gar nicht im Sinn, »weder hatte ich mir entsprechende Literatur angeschaut noch mich an Vorbildern orientiert«. Wenning schuf schließlich einen bootsähnlichen Raum aus Holz, knapp acht Quadratmeter groß, plus Terrasse, der zwischen den zwei Stämmen an Stahlseilen und Textilgurten aufgehängt wurde.

Dieses Baumhaus Plendelhof gibt es noch immer: In neun Metern Höhe blickt man von dort auf die Baumkrone und die umgebende Wiesenlandschaft. Wenning nennt es »den Prototyp«. Denn heute, 18 Jahre später, ist er als Architekt auf Baumhäuser spezialisiert – und weltweit gefragt. Mehr als 80 Projekte hat er mit seinem Büro Baumraum schon realisiert, in gut einem Dutzend unterschiedlicher Länder. Erfreuen sich professionell geplante Baumhäuser schon seit zwei Jahrzehnten zunehmender Beliebtheit, vermutlich weil die Menschen Nähe zur Natur suchen, so ist die Nachfrage mit der Pandemie weiter gestiegen. »Besonders im Bereich Baumhaus-Hotels. Viele gehen davon aus, dass die Leute künftig mehr regional verreisen, aber eben ein besonderes Erlebnis suchen.« Wennings Buch Baumhäuser erscheint jetzt bereits in der vierten Auflage – aktualisiert unter anderem um das Projekt Black Crystal in den Catskill Mountains nördlich von New York, das mit seiner Fassade aus dunklen Blechen wie ein Edelstein zwischen den Laubbäumen schimmert. Es ist auch auf dem Cover zu sehen.

In den USA hat der Architekt schon häufiger gearbeitet, die Begeisterung für Baumhäuser sei dort vielleicht noch größer als anderswo. »Das hat kulturelle Gründe. Historisch sind die Amerikaner Landeroberer, robuste Leute, die in der Natur leben und ihre Freiheit lieben. « Mit den USA verbindet Wenning aber auch prägende Erinnerungen aus seiner Jugend. Nach dem Zivildienst reiste er vier Monate allein durchs Land –  nicht zuletzt ein Crashkurs, um sein Englisch zu verbessern.

Andreas Wenning stammt aus Weinheim an der Bergstraße und lernte nach der zehnten Klasse zunächst Tischler. Ein Baumhaus besaß er zwar nie als Kind, aber Basteln, Bauen und die Natur lagen ihm seit jeher. Nachdem er das Abitur nachgeholt hatte, führte ihn das Architekturstudium nach Bremen, wo er noch immer lebt.

Natürlich ist die Expertise als Tischler eine solide Grundlage für seine Spezialisierung, und bis heute packt Wenning auf der Baustelle selbst mit an, doch seine Entwürfe sind entscheidend geprägt von seiner Liebe zu avantgardistischer Architektur. »Handwerker, die Baumhäuser bauen, wollen möglichst alles allein machen. Für mich spielt das keine Rolle, und ich bin auch nicht auf bestimmte Materialien festgelegt. Holz ist wichtig, aber ich arbeite ebenso mit Kunststoffen oder Stahl.« Zugleich, sagt Wenning, könne er auch freier gestalten als viele seiner Kollegen in anderen Feldern der Architektur: »Die meisten haben ein engeres Korsett. Ich kann im Bereich der Formen und der Materialität in meinem losgelöster und auch skulpturaler gestalten.«

Ein Baumhaus zu bewohnen, fühlt sich nach Freiheit an. Eines zu entwerfen, offenbar auch.

Always stay up to date with our new English-language newsletter

🇬🇧 Never miss a great DOM book again – with our newsletter you benefit from exclusive offers, peek behind the scenes of our publishing house and stay informed about upcoming events. You can now subscribe to an English-language newsletter covering all our international titles: click.

🇩🇪 Nie wieder ein neues Buch verpassen: Mit unserem Newsletter profitieren Sie von exklusiven Angeboten, werfen einen Blick hinter die Kulissen unseres Verlags und erhalten vorab Infos zu Veranstaltungen und neuen Titeln. DOMmail gibt es weiterhin auf Deutsch (mit Informationen zu allen deutschsprachigen und internationalen Titeln) – und jetzt auch auf Englisch. Einfach hier anmelden: klick.

The engineer who updated Venice

Whether you visit the lagoon city for pleasure or for work, whether you head to the Biennale or the Lido: You will encounter Eugenio Miozzi's work everywhere. His rationalist parking garages and innovative bridges linked Venice with the mainland while also preserving the historic structure. Read our portrait of a man who combined centuries-old traditions with a spirit of innovation.


Text: Kyung Hun Oh
Photo: Miozzi measuring the base of the Column of San Teodoro, one of a pair of structures located in St Mark’s Square, around 1950. © IUAV, Archivio Progetti, Fondo Eugenio Miozzi⠀

Eugenio Miozzi, chief architect of Venice from 1931 to 1954, played a key role in shaping the city as it is today. Yet he remains a largely unknown figure. This obscurity can perhaps be traced back to his links to Mussolini’s fascist government. Nonetheless, locals and tourists come in contact with his works on a daily basis. Now a monograph on him has been published by DOM publishers – the book is available in both English and Italian.

Miozzi’s central idea for Venice was to ensure its survival as a ‘normal’ city, which, in his view, would only be possible with the introduction of cars. To this end, he realised a major car park in Piazzale de Roma as well as a new Municpal Garage, allowing visitors to easily access the city from the mainland. He also drew up an ambitious plan to build a large new motorway under the lagoon, running clockwise from Piazzale de Roma to the south of Venice. The project was never realised, though it was worked out in detail. Ponte degli Scalzi is perhaps his most emblematic project. The bridge was based on a highly creative solution from a technical perspective, made entirely of stone, with no iron or concrete reinforcements. Miozzi developed a new calculation method to predict the movements of the bridge’s stone pieces, and thus pared down the structure to the essentials. The outcome represents a seamless combination of modern and traditional building techniques. ‘There is no excess, and no lack, with a perfect balance between function, form, construction, and material,’ said Clemens Kusch, editor of Eugenio Miozzi: Modern Venice Between Innovation and Tradition. So lean was the structure that people were afraid of passing beneath it, for fear that it would collapse.

Miozzi was respectful of the city’s architectural heritage, always placing his modernist projects on the peripheries. In the centre, he endeavoured to find a language that was adapted to the historic urban context. This partly also explains why there have been no attempts to demolish Miozzi’s works in Venice: ‘It doesn’t occur to people that his works aren’t part of the historic city,’ says Kusch. Moreover, each of his works stemmed from a real necessity that still exists today: ‘Their survival is linked to the necessity of his interventions.’

Miozzi’s works also sparked a new debate on the future of Venice: between conservatives who wished to preserve the city as it was, and those who saw the need for modernisation. Ultimately, it seems the former prevailed. The spirit of innovation ebbed away after his death. As Kusch says: ‘Very few important modern buildings were built in the city after him.’