How hospitable are hospitals?

The word hospital is related to hospitable, hostel and hotel. Earlier it meant “shelter for the needy”. It comes from the Latin hospes, signifying a stranger or foreigner, hence a guest.

Another noun derived from this, hospitium, came to signify hospitality: the relation between guest and shelterer, friendliness, and hospitable reception. This Latin word then came to mean a guest-chamber, guest’s lodging, an inn.

Hospes is thus the root for the English words host, hospitality, hospice, hostel and hotel.

Yet how hospitable are psychiatric hospitals, units and wards? It’s worth asking, because currently many patients see them as places of imprisonment and punishment.

As derived from the Madlove website, here are some ideas about “if you designed your own asylum, what would it look like?”:

  • The hospital I need to be in is in my flat … but made safe.
  • Perfect café … an interested administrative person behind counter, like “friends”.
  • Hotel rooms – order everywhere.
  • A very well organised charity shop.
  • A playroom for adults (not hipster table football style).
  • Flotation chamber.
  • Room full of bubble wrap.
  • A dancefloor.
  • A space to dance with one other person.
  • Spotify.
  • Records (music).
  • Holographic room that knows what you needed.
  • A weather room.
  • No walls.
  • Northumberland sheep farm up in the hills, views, sunsets.
  • A horizon.
  • Opportunity to walk (not forced).
  • Star-gazing.
  • Garden with a stream running through.
  • A shed!
  • I want to be able to leave my home.
  • Able to access anything I need to.
  • Mix of novelty and play.
  • Dogs and cats allowed.
  • Feral cats (don’t need feeding).
  • Switch-on children
  • No letter-boxes
  • Marks & Spencer’s fruit buns + Thornton’s ice-cream.
  • A place I don’t need to justify myself.
  • I couldn’t find anywhere when I did go looking.
  • A network of places rather than one – go on journeys.
  • Books.
  • No spectators, but not claustrophobic.
  • Lose yourself in a good way. Byker wall with no CCTV, locked doors or problems.
  • Teleport system where I can bring people to me to remind me of who I am when I’m not there.
  • A toilet just to sit on and do nothing for a bit.

Additional ideas for asylum design – as again derived from the Madlove website – include:

  • Find experts by experience.
  • Remove boundaries.
  • Stimulate the imagination.
  • Consider emotional qualities.
  • Create a sensory palette (e.g. food and drink, pets, nice smells).
  • Decide what personal qualities you need.
  • Find out what activities and facilities help.
  • Build a team.

See also Madlove: A Designer Asylum

5/5 - (1 vote)


  1. Dr Zel Dolinsky

    See what people’s recent experiences are in US psychiatric hospitals. Please Pay attention to the respondents comments. Thanks.

  2. Dr. Zel Dolinsky

    When I enter a comment I don’t see it when I click on “see comments”. I am using my iPhone 6 and don’t have a computer. How can I view comments?Can I please get a reply from Thank you.

    1. Editorial (Post author)

      That’s because all proposed comments must first be approved by the editor before they appear publicly.

      1. Dr. Zel Dolinsky

        Thanks for getting back to me about posting comments.


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