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Orbis Hospital  /

“The patient is guest. He resides in a spacious single room with private facilities. This creates an environment where privacy and tranquillity are guaranteed, just like home.”

Orbis Brochure 2011

In the twentieth century man-made underground spaces slowly became civilized. What began with the technology of the mine, transformed into the trenches and defensive bunkers of global war before evolving into the sanitized shopping malls and subterranean mass-transport systems that today define city centres. Ever so gradually the underground has been transformed from a threatening lawless environment into a protective shell.

In the twenty first century, as technology has developed our ability to monitor and observe the world, even in those once hidden spaces, a transformation has taken place.  The subterranean spaces of the modern city no longer represent a dangerous and inhospitable place, rather they offer the ultimate controlled environment where privacy reigns supreme. Instead of being a threat, the enclosed spaces have become a haven from the unpredictability of the non-manufactured world - going so far as to surpass the everyday in terms of cleanliness, order and security.

The spaces that were once thought impossible to accurately represent in schematic form have now become the apex of sytematised space; climate controlled, well-policed, antiseptic and problem free. With it the conceptual underground has shifted from characterized by behind the scenes dealings in illicit trades, secretive political pacts and subversive forms of culture - to one that is entirely virtual.

In the new Orbis hospital that sits between Sittard and Geleen an element of this dream has been made real. At the patient’s bedside there still remains the reassuring presence of human medical professionals providing hands on care, face-to-face in a private simulation of a home environment made for healing. 

But move away from the patient and the behind the scenes workings resemble more closely the science-fiction imaginings of a possible future made real than those of a traditional hospital. Staff are clothed, timed and monitored by digital systems that provide their every professional need, while automated guided vehicles have replaced hospital porters carrying food, supplies and medication directly to the wards. At the moment their only contact with patients is the occasional guided tour to see the technology in action, their only communication politely reminding people “Attention, automatic tran-sport”. However, it seems possible that soon the robots will replace more and more human resources to create healing environments that are perfectly isolated, devoid of the foibles of other people and their contradictory, complex identities.

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Orbis Hospital Secret Cities Sittard Geleen