Carlo Ratti Associati designs shipping-container intensive care units for coronavirus treatment

Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota have designed an intensive-care pod within a shipping container that could be added to hospitals fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Named Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments – or CURA, which is the latin word for cure – the intensive care unit (ICU) pods have been designed to increase the country's intensive care capacity.

"The aim is that they can be quickly deployed in cities around the world, promptly responding to the shortage of ICU space in hospitals and the spread of the disease," explained the CURA team.

The first prototype unit is being built at a hospital in Milan, which is one of the cities in Italy with the most cases of coronavirus Covid-19.

Shipping-container intensive care units – Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota
CURA is an intensive care unit in a container

The units have been designed by Italian architecture studio Carlo Ratti Associati and architect Italo Rota as part of a development team including engineering studio Jacobs and digital studio Squint/Opera, which created the video explaining the concept.

The idea is to create temporary structures that could be deployed rapidly, like traditional hospital tents, but with a high level of biocontainment to prevent the spread of the virus.

Built within repurposed 6.1-metre-long shipping containers, the units would feature a ventilation system that generates negative pressure inside, a common technique used in hospitals and laboratories to prevent contaminated air from escaping. The designers say the units have been designed to comply with Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms (AIIRs) standards.

"The units could be as fast to mount as a hospital tent, but as safe as an isolation ward, thanks to biocontainment with negative pressure," said the CURA team.

Shipping-container intensive care units – Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota
The units could be added to hospitals to increase intensive care capacity

Each of the biocontainment units would contain all the medical equipment needed to support two coronavirus Covid-19 intensive-care patients. Each could work as a single unit, or be connected by an inflatable structure in various configurations to create larger, multi-bed setups.

The designers envision the units being set up alongside existing hospitals, in spaces like car parks, to expand intensive care capacity, or being deployed as field hospitals.

Shipping-container intensive care units – Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota
Each unit is designed for two patients

The team created CURA in response to the current coronavirus pandemic, which is putting a huge strain on intensive care units in countries around the world. The coronavirus has infected over 300,000 people globally with Italy, China and Spain some of the hardest-hit countries.

"CURA aims to improve the efficiency of existing solutions in the design of field hospitals, tailoring them to the current pandemic," explained the team.

"In the last weeks, hospitals in the countries most affected by Covid-19, from China to Italy, Spain to the UK and USA, have been struggling to increase their ICU capacity to admit a growing number of patients with severe respiratory diseases, in need of ventilators," it continued.

"Whatever the evolution of this pandemic, it is expected that more ICUs will be needed internationally in the next few months."

Shipping-container intensive care units – Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota
The units could be quickly delayed at hospitals around the world.

Designers and companies have been responding to the coronavirus in with numerous solutions, with brands including car manufacturer Vauxhall, Gucci parent company Kering and beer maker BrewDog offering up money and production lines to make items needed to treat the virus.

A group of Chinese designers has devised products for protection against the virus, while experience designer Bompas & Parr has launched a competition to rethink hand sanitisers Italian start-up Isinnova has 3D printed a crucial valve for a ventilator.

Video is by Squint/Opera.


Project credits:

Design and innovation: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati with Italo Rota
Medical engineering: Humanitas Research Hospital
Medical consultancy: Policlinico di Milano
Master planning, design, construction and logistics support services: Jacobs
Visual identity & graphic design: Studio FM milano
Digital media: Squint/Opera
Logistics: Alex Neame of Team Rubicon UK
MEP engineering: Ivan Pavanello of Projema
Medical consultancy: Maurizio Lanfranco of Ospedale Cottolengo

More images and plans

Shipping-container intensive care units – Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota
Shipping-container intensive care units – Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota
Shipping-container intensive care units – Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota