BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE: The underlying assumption was that the aesthetics of the hospital surroundings are often neglected. AIMS: This article is the first part of a larger study into the aesthetics of general hospitals. The aim of the study is to throw light on the influence of aesthetics on the health and well-being of patients and the professional personnel, and to examine how aesthetic considerations are dealt with. We present a survey of how the aesthetic dimension is planned and it is considered important in the strategic plans of Norwegian general hospitals. METHODS: Data were sampled by analyzing the strategic plans of somatic hospitals. Sixty-four of 86 hospitals responded (74%). Concepts were categorized in a matrix of 11 main categories, each with subcategories. The method was quantitative, in that the analyzed material was amenable to counting. RESULTS: Very few concrete guidelines or directions for the aesthetic dimension have been included in written documents. This indicates that the aesthetic area is a neglected field in the directions for the daily management of hospitals. CONCLUSIONS: The research available today on the contribution of environmental aesthetics to health, rehabilitation, and well-being suggests that it is important to have concrete guidelines recorded in strategic plans. This field concerns the maintenance of high quality in the caring professions.