Design (4)


I am old enough to remember hospital solariums.  These were outdoor spaces on each wing to afford the patient fresh air and sunshine.  What happened to this idea of opening up the interior to the exterior environment?  We talk about biophilia as if it is a new term.  

As the Pandemic continues, we have learned that air flow is a pertinent factor in the transfer of droplets and virus contagion.  Perhaps we should return to our roots of yesteryear where fresh air was the solution to recovery from disease.  What if the windows at the end of hospital corridors were operable and allowed a breeze to flow through?  What if a patient room had a door out to a walking path on a green roof?  I would be that person who got up each morning to take a walk without the dings or sound of equipment alarms, but simply the sound of chirping birds and the smell of  tea olives.  That would improve my mind and body and I would heal faster.

In life plan communities/senior living environments, the limited walking paths are extremely condensed.  What if we could extend these paths further into outdoor living rooms with pause points for resting.  I would like to see paths wide enough to accommodate physical distancing.  I have a friend who has an incredibly old and tall oak tree in her backyard which has become a family art sculpture.  As her children outgrew shoes, each discarded pair was nailed to the tree, creating a topic of conversation to all who visit and sit in the yard.  This is a tremendous twist to the "Giving Tree" concept.  This would be a wonderful activity for a senior community, ever evolving and changing with time.

I believe that great good will come out of this time of change.  We are just beginning to see how to give patients and residents safe and "natural" settings to recover from disease, surgery, and behavioral complications. Let's make a giant leap into the future and return to what we know to be true:  green is good for what ails us.


There's a crossover occurring between all types of design; hospitality, multi-family, workplace, retail and healthcare.  The vocabulary of  "social distancing" in the workplace and "touchless" fixtures in hospitality and multi-housing are now commonplace.  But do you know the most appropriate way to conquer the new "safe" requirements in design?  

We have all experienced social distancing with lines drawn on the floor and numbers indicating how far apart to stand in the grocery line or the post office cue.  We've seen the plexiglass shields between us and the cashiers.  Restaurants are opening at half capacity and streets are being closed to allow outdoor dining options.  We're worried about going back to work in an office where employees are barely 36" apart typically.  We would rather sit outside and work at our laptops on a picnic blanket than expose ourselves to Covid in the coming months. Working from home is certainly an option and may be the first choice solution.

But whether at home, at the office, or at a food venue, biophilia is an absolute necessity in design now.  If for nothing else, for the addition of exterior spaces to relax and extend environments.  There will be a need to have "mask-off" time and the best areas to accomplish that is in a green landscape. 

I see a need for healthcare experts to join teams in all modes of design delivery.  A designer with healthcare experience can take an intense look into what the steps are to secure infection control in  hospitality, multi-family, workplace, and retail as well as healthcare.  This new position may be called a "hygiene manager" or "health maintenance officer."  

Whatever the term, the need is real.  If we truly care about our staff and our neighbors, we need to consult with those who know how to design to mitigate the risks.


Wednesday, 04 March 2020 22:01

Color in 2030

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ScreenHunter 520 Apr 22 1615

For the first time in the history of the United States, "Boomers" will out number children by the year 2030. Those under the age of 18 will be the lesser demographic to those over 65. Should we adjust our hospital color palettes to suite this group of adults?

Accommodating the changing feature customer in healthcare environments will be tricky. I am potentially suggesting that we switch to color that the aging eyes will perceive. There are so many factors to consider; the presence of cataracts, the yellowing of color perception with dementia, and the blurred close vision of presbyopia, to name a few.

Let's see, there could be evidence to design with pops of color to signal changes in wall surfaces. There are also schools of thought to create a black, white, and grey world to make certain we appeal to all people with all conditions. Then there's the contradictory use of red in a healthcare setting. Let's use it, because this color will visually appear more muted to this crowd! More recently, there is the use of the blue color spectrum, now coupled with LED lighting. Does skin tone actually change under these lighting conditions? Perhaps we have pushed the envelope of possibilities far enough

Let's remember that no two people are alike. I may not see the same hue that you see, but I can appreciate it. I am totally sure that my color perception will never be completely gone! A space devoid of color will bore me to tears. Let's not jump the gun to delete color in the foreseeable future. Let's agree to evolve color into the best application as designers have always done and thereby appeal to all generations.

After all, the most successful spaces and those with color make terrific black and white photos.

Friday, 01 March 2019 18:32

An Aha Moment in Design

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ScreenHunter 527 Apr 22 1617

Recently, I attended an ACHE event to mingle with the healthcare community in the low country of Charleston. I met wonderful people doing great things to better healthcare experiences for patients. There was one conversation that was a particularly clarifying moment for me.

I met an administrator at the VA Medical Center. We talked about what Veterans need. I mentioned that in my observation, their wait times are tremendous and they can be at a facility all day. She stopped me in my tracks. She told me that they are not necessarily there all day because of their appointment; they are there because they want to be there! Veterans feel a sisterhood and brotherhood with those that served in the crucible of combat. It is like going home to family. If you listen in on discussions within the waiting areas, you will hear comparisons of experiences and war stories. Where else are these individuals able to connect so well to such a captivating audience? Now this is a "healing environment" if I ever heard of one!

She went on to explain that the coffee shop was once in the middle of the hospital with little visibility. It was moved to the front lobby in response to the need for a place to accommodate the comaraderie between their patients. The shop gives a spot for a "sit down" and a sharing platform over a cup of joe.

I have a renewed respect for our VA Hospitals. They know what their patients need and they are providing it. I sincerely appreciate the "aha moment" and the sharing of information. I strongly suspect that this clarifying instance will transfer into other areas for me as I design. Thank you for this realization.