A&M co-founds GUPHA

Effort draws international attention to
A&M architecture-for-health program

Texas A&M's College of Architecture has long been recognized as home to one of the nation's leading architecture-for-health design programs. In recent years, due in part to the college's leadership in the Global University Program in Healthcare Architecture, or GUPHA, the health facilities design program at A&M has achieved worldwide acclaim.

As an international academic research network, GUPHA is dedicated to the creation and promotion of professional architecture-for-health higher education programs and to the dissemination of their research to the health design industry.

The organization was co-founded in 2000 by George J. Mann, A&M's Ronald L. Skaggs Endowed Professor of Health Facilities Design, and Yasushi Nagasawa, Ph.D., architecture professor at the University of Tokyo. They created the organization to foster competition and encourage more architecture schools to create health facility design programs.

"The need was overwhelming," recalled Mann. "Our phones were ringing off the hook. There were many more projects and positions than we had students. At the time, the only U.S. universities with health facilities design programs were A&M and Clemson."

GUPHA'S founders were also interested in making global architecture firms and healthcare specialists familiar with the research being conducted in their disciplines at GUPHA universities.

Since founded, GUPHA has grown to include 25 member institutions.

"The ultimate goal of GUPHA is improved healthcare for people around the world," explained Mann, who also serves as the organization's president.

With that mission in mind, GUPHA convened last July in Genoa, Switzerland for its third annual forum. The theme of the event, hosted at Clemson University's Swiss villa, was "Healthcare Delivery in the Year 2050."

The forum attracted an international mix of over 30 scholars representing institutions in the United States, Europe and Asia. Among those joining founders Mann and Nagasawa were representatives from De Montford University, Architects for Health, and Nightingale Associates from the United Kingdom; Helsinki University of Technology from Finland; Aristotle University of Thessalonika from Greece; Universita di Pavia from Italy; Carlton University from Ottawa, Canada; Hong Kong Polytechnic University, from China; and Manila University from The Philippines.

Though 2050 may seem distant, Mann said, many of today's architecture students will eventually confront the complex challenges of mid-21st century healthcare design.

The visionary predictions put forth by forum members included the eventual antiquation of mega-hospitals, the increased use of nature for therapy, the introduction of home-based intensive care unit modules, and competition for limited resources that will likely include potable water.

Representatives from the World Health Organization presented the group with population projections and statistics on the anticipated proliferation of cases involving HIV, tuberculosis, aging and patient violations. "According to the WHO report," Mann said, "total fertility rates will grow from 6.1 billion in 2001, to 9.3 billion by 2050. Additionally, the projected population growth will occur in developing countries where half of the world's people currently exists on less than $2 a day."

At the Genoa forum WHO representatives challenged GUPHA institutions to begin developing concept designs for future health care delivery and treatment configurations in developing countries.

Mann said GUPHA members will gather again this spring at Tulane University in New Orleans to discuss this request and further hone the organization's agenda.

"There is a dire need for this organization," said Mann. "A&M's health facilities design faculty, students and graduates are in high demand around the world as are their counterparts at other GUPHA institutions."

Mann's leadership in GUPHA is partly responsible for thrusting A&M University's architecture-for-health program into the international spotlight. Another result of the program's growing prestige, said Mann, is that it is attracting first-class students and projects from around the world.

Mann's current design studio was recently flown to Boston, Mass. to begin developing concepts for a master-planned retirement community that incorporates a skilled nursing facility, homes for independent and assisted living, and a campus for a neighborhood school.

"We are getting one project after the other," said Mann. "As a result, we get to pick the best ones."

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