Tara Veldman, associate director at Billard Leece Partnership, has more than 17 years’ experience in healthcare design across Australia, Europe and the Middle East. 

Her passion is for socially-based design in healthcare and has worked at design firm De Jong Gortemaker Algra in the Netherlands. In the Middle East, as senior design manager for Bluehaus and senior design architect for Design Inc, Veldman worked on projects across the United Arab Emirates.

Architecture & Design spoke to her about socially-based design, working in the Middle East and why she wouldn't mind being a film-maker.

You've had experience in healthcare in Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Which country's approach do you prefer to healthcare design and why?

Definitely the Netherlands. The Dutch are so blissfully organised and the process is very efficient from start to end, which shows in the quality of the healthcare design. The Middle East was great for architects when I was working there as there was a very liberal attitude to design – no expense spared and a desire for the best in everything!

You use a term called socially-based design. Can you explain what you think socially-based design is and why you prefer the approach?

In healthcare design it is typically the management team and stakeholders who are involved in the design process, not the patients and staff and visitors who are actually using the spaces. A socially-based approach is thinking about creating a great environment for the people who are going to use the building over and above the practical briefed requirements and creating a better environment for them. It’s not about expensive design, just carefully thinking about things like daylight, space, colour, materials and privacy.

What do you think are the common mistakes designers make when it comes to healthcare design?

Not understanding the way the decision making process works. There are lots of competing priorities in healthcare design and to get a really good outcome that fits within clinical and project parameters you really need to know how the process works to get the best result.

Is the industry getting better at avoiding these mistakes?

People and companies who have experience in healthcare design understand its peculiarities. There is a momentum in Australia at the moment for good healthcare design. Clients are starting to recognise that health outcomes can be improved with good buildings and are appreciating better design.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I am currently the project director on Wagga Wagga Health Service Redevelopment – a $282 million dollar redevelopment of the Acute Hospital.

What have been some challenges and how have you overcome those challenges?

Early morning fog and airport shut downs on the way to Wagga Wagga, which has meant flying down the night before so have come to know Wagga Wagga well.

If you weren't an architect, what would you be doing and why?

I would love to be a film-maker. It's the same driver as for architecture – to positively affect people’s lives and create some joy and excitement.