Our Last Home: Designing for Care at the End of Life
Lam, Andrea Wing-San
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In the last fifty years, hospice palliative care has changed the modern understanding of dying. Rather than focusing on death, it promotes the facilitation of optimizing life for patients whose conditions have worsened beyong the possibility of recovery or cure. As such, this thesis is a response to the demands of architecture to support this unique stage of life. It analyzes and posits guidelines for designing spaces which must cater to the specific and vastly different needs of the palliative care specialists, family members, and the patients themselves. Also, it seeks to examine the nuanced complexities and poetics involved in a proposed architectural design for a hospice in downtown Toronto. The typology for a hospice is one that is both complex and evolving. It must combine the domestic scale of a home with the efficiency and standardization of an institution. The contemporary hospice must also accommodate rituals and beliefs surrounding the end of life that vary greatly from the many cultures that make up the contemporary city. At the very least, the building must provide inspiration and a hope for a peaceful and dignified transition, recognizing also that this is no longer a traditional place for cure. The distinctions suggest a reconsideration of what is needed and what is expected for those involved in and affected by the dying process. This thesis will explore the architectural possibilities inherent in a new social understanding of the end of life that defies the fatalistic view of an inevitable death, in favour of a hope for dying with dignity while embracing an opportunity to experience liminality during our final days.