In the epicentre of the Italian coronavirus outbreak, a group of designers, medical engineers and other experts worked together on an open source design for quickly to deploy hospital extensions for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Initiators of the project are CRA-Carlo RattiAssociati, the agency of WDCD 2014 alumnus Carlo Ratti and his colleague architect Italo Rota. Here’s the press release they sent out.


CURA (Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments) aims to convert shipping containers into plug-in Intensive-Care Pods for the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. The first unit – whose open-source design has been initiated by an international task force of architects, engineers, doctors, military experts and NGOs and is open to further contributions is currently being built in Milan, Italy, with the sponsorship of UniCredit

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, an international task force of designers, engineers, medical professionals, and military experts have joined to work on CURA, an open-source project aimed at capacity building in Intensive-Care Units (ICU). CURA uses repurposed shipping containers to create plug-in biocontainment pods that 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.


4 to 40 beds

CURA is a compact Intensive-Care pod for patients with respiratory infections, hosted in a 20-foot intermodal container with biocontainment (thanks to negative pressure). Each unit works autonomously and can be shipped anywhere. Individual pods are connected by an inflatable structure to create multiple modular configurations (from 4 beds to over 40), which can be deployed in just a few hours. Some pods can be placed in proximity to a hospital (e.g. in parking lots) to expand the ICU capacity, while others could be used to create self-standing field hospitals of varying sizes.

CURA aims to improve the efficiency of existing solutions in the design of field hospitals, tailoring them to the current pandemic. In the last weeks, hospitals in the countries most affected by COVID-19, from China to Italy, Spain to the USA, have been struggling to increase their ICU capacity to admit a growing number of patients with severe respiratory diseases, in need of ventilators. Whatever the evolution of this pandemic, it is expected that more ICUs will be needed internationally in the next few months.


Fast as a tent, safe as an isolation ward

The response to the emergency in China and Italy so far has been to set up makeshift emergency hospitals such as tents, or build new prefabricated wards with biocontainment. While the latter option is time and resource-intensive, the former one exposes medical professionals to a higher risk of contamination and adds operational strain, especially in the long run. Learning from both approaches, CURA strives to be as fast to mount as a hospital tent, but as safe as a hospital’s isolation ward to work in, thanks to biocontainment (an extractor creates indoor negative pressure, complying with the standards of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms AIIRs). It follows the standards for COVID-19 hospitals issued by the Chinese authorities, while speeding up execution.

CURA is developed in an open-source, non-for-profit framework and solicits suggestions and improvements. More information is available on



The first prototype of CURA, to be developed in Milan, Italy, is sponsored by UniCredit bank

List of people and organizations who have contributed thus far to CURA (in chronological order):

CRA-Carlo RattiAssociati with Italo Rota (Design and Innovation), Humanitas Research Hospital (Medical Engineering), Policlinico di Milano (Medical Consultancy), Jacobs (Alberto Riva – Master Planning, design, construction and logistics support services), studio FM milano (Visual identity & graphic design), Squint/opera (Digital media), Alex Neame of Team Rubicon UK (Logistics), Ivan Pavanello of Projema (MEP Engineering), Dr. Maurizio Lanfranco of OspedaleCottolengo (Medical Consultancy)

With the support of the World Economic Forum: COVID-19 Action Platform, and Cities, Infrastructure and Urban Services Platform