Why should hospital buildings be regarded as special buildings in society? Why do the big hospitals look like permanent building sites? How does the staff experience their environment and how often do they have thoughts about their working places? How do health care buildings function as supportive environments for care? This paper will seek to analyse these questions from the viewpoint of historical architectural development of the hospital and the issue of the local environment, namely the hospital ward, which occupies the largest part in surface area of all hospitals and effectively constitutes the primary 'living' area for staff and patients and the place in which the staff conduct their major tasks. Much of that discussed and observed with regard to the hospital ward, is also valid and may be applied to other hospital units. Finally, the question on the criteria and requirements involved in planning large hospitals as applied in the RIT 2000 international programme recently conducted in Scandinavia are addressed and the article concludes by highlighting the principles of design theory the applications of which would serve to unify the various requirements with which to draw up good designs for healthcare buildings.