UBC Graduate Research

The Hospice : Integration on three scales: The Urban, the Site, and the Building Wright, Mahina Hélène


The topic of death is taboo in our contemporary Western culture, and the want of open dialogue on this subject leaves those going through the process of dying, and their loved ones, in a place that is set apart from the main currents of society’s daily life. This effectively robs the person who is dying from their full humanity, which is founded on social belonging. Shame is a vexing burden carried by the dying, their loved ones and the bereaved, in large part due to our culture’s enshrinement of traits such as independence and incessant productivity. Dying, caring for the dying, and grieving require interdependence, vulnerability, reflection, readjustment- all qualities in opposition to our fast-paced world’s ideals. Cicely Saunders, considered the founder of the modern hospice movement, writes about the concept of ‘total pain’, which includes physical, emotional, social, and spiritual distress. The fear our culture carries towards death translates not only into social exclusion, but is also manifested in current hospice architecture, which seeks to present itself as unobtrusively as possible, either disguised in the cloak of domestic architecture or hidden behind a veil of greenery. My goal is to imagine a way that design can further the aims of the hospice philosophy; to alleviate the “total pain” of death and dying, not only for the person dying, but also for their loved ones. I want to imagine an alternative to shame and isolation and visualize how a life event as momentous and natural as dying can happen in a way that fosters as much support, consideration, and meaning as possible. Progressing forward from research to synthesis, my aim is to explore the ideas of belonging and integration as they relate to the hospice on three scales: The urban fabric, the community, and within the hospice space itself.

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