Buildings in the Making: A Sociological Exploration of Architecture in the Context of Health and Social Care


Our research examines the work of architects who design and develop buildings for health and social care, and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Architects are not health and social care professionals, but they are often employed to create buildings where care takes place. A better understanding of their ways of working and their contribution to the design and delivery of care therefore offers an important path for research.

Project aims:

  • Develop a sociological understanding of the day to day work of architects
  • Cast light on the way knowledge about health and social care is engineered into buildings designed for care
  • To understand the challenges and complexities associated with design in the health and social care sector

Shutterstock image of architectural plan.

The study involves ethnographic case studies of architectural practices commissioned to deliver buildings for care in later life and cancer care, working alongside teams of designers and other architectural practitioners.

We are conducting qualitative interviews with architects to scope issues and challenges that they face when designing buildings such as care homes and dementia centres in commercial, charitable and public sector contexts.

We will also work alongside teams of designers in architectural firms, attending to the processes of commissioning, planning, concept and technical design of buildings in the making. This involves interviewing architects, commissioners, operators, planners, and service users, examining documentary sources (e.g. architectural briefs, perspective renderings, policy guidelines and specifications), and observing meetings and site visits.

Image of healthcare building

Funding Scheme: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Research starts: August 2015
Research ends: July 2018
Grant reference number: ES/M008398/1


We are a team of Sociologists from the Universities of York, Kent and Queen’s, Belfast.

Ellen Annandale (Co-Investigator)

Sian Beynon-Jones (Co-Investigator)

Christina Buse (Researcher)

Daryl Martin (Co-Investigator)

Sarah Nettleton (Principal Investigator)

Mikaela Patrick (Researcher)

Lindsay Prior (Co-Investigator)

Julia Twigg (Co-Investigator)




Martin, D., Nettleton, S., Buse, C., Prior, L., &Twigg, J. (2015). Architecture and health care: a place for sociology. Sociology of Health and Illness, doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12284.

Buse, C., & Twigg, J. (2014). Women with dementia and their handbags: negotiating identity, privacy and ‘home’ through material culture. Journal of Aging Studies, 30(1), 14-22.

Buse, C., & Twigg, J. (2015). Materializing memories: exploring the stories of people with dementia through dress. Ageing and Society, available on CJO2015. doi:10.1017/S0144686X15000185.

Materialities Network

'Materialities of Care' is a research network exploring material culture in the context of health and social care. It addresses how everyday artefacts (such as objects, dress, interiors and architecture) are entangled with health and social care encounters, and mediate practices, identities and embodied experiences of health and illness. It is an interdisciplinary network, drawing together perspectives from across disciplines, including sociology, history, archaeology, architecture, geography and museum studies.

The network builds on a two day event Materialities of Care: Encountering Health and Illness Through Objects, Artefacts, and Architecture hosted at the University of York on 16-17 September 2015, supported by funding from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness. Further information about the network can be found on our website or twitter

If you are interested in being part of the network or would like to hear more about future events please contact either Daryl Martin or Chrissy Buse

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Contact us:
Find out more
Chrissy Buse
Tel: +44(0)1904 323060