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    Architect prepares oncology patients for KZN's first holistic healing retreat

    A passion for integrating holistic healing principles into architectural design culminated in a novel study that envisions a natural healing retreat for oncology patients of KwaDukuza, KwaZulu-Natal.
    Source: Supplied. Master of Architecture graduate, Nirdosh Ramjiawan.
    Source: Supplied. Master of Architecture graduate, Nirdosh Ramjiawan.

    Master of Architecture graduate, Nirdosh Ramjiawan said that, in his experience, public healthcare lacks a patient-centric approach that embraces physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

    This triggered his conceptualisation and illustration of an oncology wellness centre for the region that challenges traditional healthcare norms in favour of holistic healing and wellness, using innovative design strategies.

    Said Ramjiawan, "Holistic healing emphasises the connection between mind, body, and spirit, recognising that all aspects of a person are interconnected. Addressing all three aims promotes overall wellbeing and balance.

    "The design [for the retreat centre] integrates holistic healing principles into its architecture by addressing the person as a whole through the built environment. By creating environments that support mental, physical, and spiritual health, architecture can contribute to a more holistic approach to healing and wellness."

    He added that his concept of the oncology centre breaks the norms of a conventional public healthcare environment that comprises intimidating forms which complicate way-finding, with long, dark passages and a lack of natural light and ventilation.

    Balancing patient privacy with empathetic design solutions, Ramjiawan found that harnessing natural light, ventilation and green spaces reduces stress, enhances recovery, and creates a welcoming atmosphere for patients and visitors alike. Designed to elevate the patient experience, he envisions establishing a place of “wellness as opposed to illness”.

    Incorporating community input and local cultural practices in his design process has ensured that the oncology centre resonates with and benefits the surrounding community.

    Furthermore, in placing the envisaged facility in close proximity to local neighbourhoods, he prioritised accessibility and treatment adherence, which he says contributes to the project’s overall success and impact.

    Architectural innovation for communities

    Ramjiawan's vision for the wellness centre extends beyond architectural innovation to encompass broader societal benefits. He regards it as a valuable addition to KwaDukuza which would provide essential oncology services and community outreach programmes that raise awareness and offer support to those affected by cancer.

    ‘This community-focused research-led approach is a commitment to using architecture as a catalyst for positive change,’ said Ramjiawan.

    He hopes to continue creating spaces that not only serve practical purposes but also foster a sense of empathy and positive user experience in various social contexts.

    "By incorporating elements of community engagement and support into his designs, Ramjiawan aims to create environments that not only fulfil functional needs but also contribute to the emotional and mental wellbeing of their users. Through his work, he seeks to demonstrate the transformative power of architecture in addressing societal challenges and promoting holistic wellness.

    He credits his success to the unwavering support of his wife, Renisha, the guidance of his supervisor, Juan Solis-Arias, and to the mentorship received by his academic leaders and the staff of Hillcrest Private Hospital.

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