Cultural Sensitivity in Architecture: Building Hospitals for Muslims in Qatar - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1256 Words
Date:  2023-05-17


Anthropology plays a major role in every society's wellbeing. Its richness can be found deep within every discipline out there, be it politics or even architecture. In the latter, the influences of culture have been evident since time immemorial. These have gone much further than just adding a distinct beauty and flavor that sets one culture apart from the next (Mardelle et al., 2014). They have played major roles around the society, roles such as positively affecting medicine: in particular, the healing processes.

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Culture is considered a strong force that characterizes a person or society. It is the uniqueness of individuality in a civilization and it affects all aspects of human lifestyle including illness and health. In this respect, many patient-centered care systems have been constructed around the concept of cultural sensitivity and identity (Mardelle et al., 2014). Through emphasizing the importance of dealing with cultural identity on the patients healing process, the healthcare system has discovered an improvement in the healing curve of their patients. Among the best ways of implementing this sensitivity to culture has been to incorporate it into architecture.

The process of unifying concepts found in architecture and anthropology with respect to medicine can be a little daunting even though both disciplines have values on healing. There seems to be a gap between cultural sensitivity and healthcare architecture (Dak, 2008). Tailoring a hospital architecture to adhere to cultural norms and style is still a new concept. It is a critical subject that has almost been ignored through the years and is only now garnering the attention it deserves.

However, with the current evolution of economic, regional and global changes to multicultural trends in many countries, new possibilities are emerging for the exploration of culturally influenced architecture in health systems (Dak, 2008). The case study of this paper then, is to discuss the effects of including cultural influences in Qatari hospital architecture.

Cultural identity is very strong in the Middle-East. Arab countries are attached to their culture, incorporating in every facet of their livelihoods. This can be seen not only in their cuisines, clothing and customs but in their architecture as well. However, with the onset of Western influences, modern buildings designed to conform to international standards are being erected around Qatar (Mohammad, 2002). These types of buildings considered the perfect representation of the country's development, sacrifice the locals' identity and preferences. Due to this development the designs of many hospitals in the Arabian Gulf region apply a more westernized approach where facilities are not considering Qatari cultural identity as a key point in design (Maya et al., 2005). With this said, exploring different literature relevant to this topic, from ones defining the importance of culture on patients' healing process to ones clarifying the major position of architecture on users' recovery, will open the door for combining both culture and architecture and in extension solve this issue including cultural aspect in hospitals building environment (Mohammad, 2002). Narrowing down the literature review to focus on providing solutions for the developing countries under global force, especially those where culture plays an important role such as Qatar.

Culture and Healing

As already discussed, culture plays an important role in patients' recovery. Oyedeji Ayonrinde claimed that patients have their own views, and backgrounds that accord them high expectations on how they should be treated based on their beliefs and norms (Dak, 2008). The relationship between patient culture, medical setting and nurse culture is a complex system that if not handled with care can sprout major issues (Amos, 2007). Such include issues revolving aspects like age, gender, religion, language, communications, exposure, and privacy both on the nurse and the patients' sides. The cultural background of the patient and therapists can be different. Having knowledge about such issues can easily minimize the impending collision of cultural preferences (Dak, 2008). Cultural sensitivity inpatient care can affect health outcomes in a positive way including improvement in patient satisfaction level which affects their health.

Architecture and Healing

There is power behind one's cultural faith manifested through what they can see. Culturally influenced architecture usually brings out the best society has to offer in terms of artistic expression. Being healed in a Buddha's temple can exponentially increase the rate of healing from naught but the belief and sense of wellbeing the place exudes (Dak, 2008). Individuals are also more responsive and at ease in familiar places, and building hospitals with influences from the surrounding community can very well create a homey hospital that will be cherished by the society.

Culture and Architecture

From the dawn of time architecture and culture have influenced each other. Cultural behaviors and preferences birth architecture and architecture reflect specific cultures (Maya et al., 2005). Amos Rapoport, a writer, explains the relationship between bio-social, psychological, and cultural features of a man and the built environment around him. He clarifies that the aim of the design is to provide environments that meet user's preferences (Mohammad, 2002). Rapoport user-oriented architecture is based on people and environments interact. As such, design must react and show a specific culture.

Global Development and Architectural Identity

The most outstanding product of a society is the physical and urban structure that they have created for themselves. Due to globalization, societal identity has been affected as can be clearly seen in Qatari architecture (Mohammad, 2002). Elsheshtawy gathered Arab scholar and architects' works in order to summarize and unearth these problems of identity and globalization in the region by focusing on how the built environment has transformed over time.

Designing for Arab-Muslims

Arab countries still have a strong bond with their culture. Islamic religion which has existed for centuries maintains a strong tie with its ancient beliefs (Paul, 2001). These beliefs weave deep into both architecture and healing, and are the main stable agents for Qatari believes and practices that shape the area's culture and lifestyle. "Understanding the links between Islamic beliefs and practices and their influence on clinical encounters provides opportunities to improve community health and deliver culturally sensitive high-quality care" (Paul, 2001). As Architecture is an expression of culture, it must admit and respond to the cultural needs and beliefs of its society. Therefore, a selection of cultural beliefs can be defined from a simple observation of the surrounding architecture as much as the culture of an area most likely to influence said area's architectural form.


In conclusion, the relationship between architecture and culture is binary. As much influence from one discipline goes into the opposite giving it a distinctive feature that allows it to stand out through time and geographical area. Allowing culture to influence architecture, namely, hospital infrastructure can go a long way in improving the healing rates of patients. Qatari culture is multifaceted and ages-old, if properly incorporated into hospital architecture there will be an improvement in patient recoveries.


Mardelle McCuskey Shepley, Darch, and Yilin Song, Ph.D., (2014), Design Research and the Globalization of Healthcare Environments, Vol. 8, Vendome Group LLC

Dak Kopec, Ph.D., CHES, and Li Han, MS, (2008), Islam and the Healthcare Environment: Designing Patient Rooms, Vol 1, Vendome Group LLC

Mohammad Z Al-Shahri, (2002), Culturally Sensitive Caring for Saudi Patients, J Transcult Nurs ., Redefining architecture to accommodate cultural difference: Designing for cultural sustainability,

Paul Lawrence, MSN, RN, Cathy Rozmus, DSN, RN, FACCE, (2001), Culturally Sensitive Care of the Muslim Patient, Vol 12, Journal of Transcultural Nursing

Maya M. Hammoud, MD, Casey B. White, Ph.D., Michael D. Fetters, MD, MPH, MA, (2005) Opening cultural doors: Providing Culturally Sensitive Healthcare to Arab American and American Muslim Patients, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Amos Rapoport, (2007), Some Further Thoughts on Culture and Environment, Vol 2, Archnet-IJAR

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