Monthly Archives: January 2012

Coast Medical: Moeski Consulting

Vancouver interior designer Karin Bohne of Moeski Consulting made her first foray into healthcare interiors with this sustainable project for Coast Medical. Azure Magazine explains:

Having worked in small, crowded and dated offices for many years, the doctor who hired Moeski wanted a space that was welcoming for patients and comfortable for staff. Moeski  did just that, creating a modern and cool atmosphere with a palette inspired by the coastal landscape. Natural imagery and strong turquoise blue and yellow recalling the water and sun act as accents against a white backdrop. The designer’s use of a bold graphic print wall alternating in each of the exam rooms creates a focal point and adds texture, colour and visual interest to rooms that are traditionally bare.

It’s a bright and subtle space, with a simple design inspired by the sea and sun of the coast. At once unexpected and familiar, the space Bohne crafted introduces whimsical elements of modern green design without feeling overworked or fussy. In the video below, she walks viewers through the space while explaining various design elements.

Stockholm Design Lab: Vårdapoteket Branding

Swedish pharmacy Vårdapoteket has recently adopted a crisp, unconventional graphic identity quite distinct from the uninspired design that traditionally permeates the realm of pharmacy branding. According to the designers at the Stockholm Design Lab (SDL):

Vårdapoteket is a Swedish pharmacy chain with 24 pharmacies placed in care related locations. To distinguish and contrast themselves from the often very clinical and barren environments that hospitals make out, SDL developed a new identity inspired by the human body.

With a strong and positive color palette and a pattern based on the internal organs of the human body, a strong base for their new identity was created. This graphic language is now used in all types of applications; from in-store wallpaper to all sorts of printed material, such as stationery, retail and POS materials.

Vårdapoteket certainly strives to stand out amongst the clinical settings surrounding their retail outlets, and I beleive the company and their designers effectively created a likeable and enthusiastic visual personality that sets them apart. The iconic illustrations are by Swedish artist Kari Moden.

[Via Fastcodesign]

1989: Poor design may cost you patients

Flashback to 1989! In Februrary 1989, The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a two page article by Freelance writer Jacqueline Swartz highlighting the increasing importance of good design in healthcare facilities. Her emphasis was on private practice medical offices and articulates several thoughtful, basic elements of their design. The article opens:

Vinyl chairs, metal tables and cold, impersonal waiting rooms might have been the norm in medical offices a decade ago, but now, with increasing competition for patients in large urban areas and a growing public awareness of design, waiting rooms are taking on a new look.  “There’s a new emphasis on an attractive, inviting environment that conveys the message of comfort and wellness, rather than sterility and illness,” says Jan Suitso, an interior designer.

The general mood of the move toward human centered, consumer driven healthcare design has not changed significantly since 1989. The advent of the evidence based design movement certainly provided a database of qualitative statistics to draw from, however we can see in the CMAJ article here that carefully articulated common sense can also play an important role in design schemes. Suggestions include french doors to promote a sense of openiness,  a nurses station where simple proceedures like allergy shots can be performed, chairs with arms, and soft earth tone colors and textures. My personal favorite section:

Natural light or indirect lighting is preferable to fluorescent lighting, which makes colours appear washed out and can make even the healthy look sick. And vinyl is passe: durable nylon weaves are preferable.

Download the full article via PDF: The doctor’s office: Poor design may cost you patients

Video: Art program at Capital Health’s Hopewell Campus

Screenshot from the PBS short documentary

Here’s a link to a 10 minute video piece about developing an arts program at the new Capital Health Medical Center’s Hopewell Campus. The short documentary was shown on New Jersey PBS’s State of the Arts TV show. The synopsis:

Art is part of the healing experience at the Capital Health Medical Center in Mercer County, NJ. Lin Swensson, breast cancer survivor and art consultant, is uniquely qualified for the job. Over four years, Swensson worked closely with doctors, staff, the architectural firm, and the community to commission original art from local area artists, including artist/architect/designer Michael Graves.

The art program includes 800 works of art by nearly 70 local artists, and is part of an overall scheme to “put an emphasis on creating a stylish and soothing health environment that resembles an upscale hotel rather than a sterile hospital” according to an article on, which also quotes Larry DiSanto, Capital Health’s executive vice president as explaining “‘When people walk in we want them to say, ‘I can’t believe this is a hospital.”

Metropolis on Biophilia

Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros wrote a post for Metropolis Magazine’s blog back in November, detailing the ideas of Biophilia. It’s a great little essay, definitely worth a read. Coined in 1984 by Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, the term literally means “love of life or living systems.” It suggests that human beings are hardwired to be healthier and heal faster when we somehow engage with the natural world. This is an iconic concept raised frequently in discussions of healthcare design, but generally not using this formal named concept of Biophilia. From the Metropolis blog:

In 1984, the environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich made a startling discovery. In studying hospital patients recovering from surgery, he found that one factor alone accounted for significant differences in post-operative complications, recovery times, and need for painkillers. It was the view from their windows!

Half the patients had views out to beautiful nature scenes. The other half saw a blank wall. This was an astonishing result — the mere quality of aesthetic experience had a measurable impact on the patients’ health and wellbeing. Moreover — and this certainly caught the attention of hard-nosed economists — because the patients stayed less time, used fewer drugs, and had fewer complications, their stay in the hospital actually cost less.

What mechanism could explain such an effect? One main proponent of biophilia, the noted biologist Edward O. Wilson, hypothesizes that we human beings have spent most of our evolutionary history in natural environments, and we have evolved to find good (i.e. healthy) environments pleasurable. Aesthetics, in this view that is increasingly accepted by scientists, is not some arbitrary experience, but our sophisticated biological ability to detect what is likely to be good for us.

Take this all with a certain dose of skepticism. According to the American Institute of Architect’s subpage on biophilia:

Despite fairly clear evidence of medical benefits from biophilic measures, very little research has been conducted to verify these outcomes. Ulrich told participants of Bringing Buildings to Life that there are still only about 30 pertinent studies on the relationship between views of nature and healing—despite the potential billions of dollars in healthcare cost savings that such features could achieve.

BrittaBritta, Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital, Gothenburg

Swedish design firm BrittaBritta dreamed up these jungle themed exam rooms for the emergency department at Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital, in Gothenburg, Sweden. They were unveiled last month. The designers explain:

A real dream project! – To get to work with children as a customer… to give a more positive experience for the parents and children visiting these stressful environments.  Children’s Hospital has previously worked with a jungle theme in the decoration of the department. This took the form of photographs of animals from the jungle on the walls and associated narrative text about the species. Our proposal was also in the same spirit but takes it one step further! (Translated from Swedish by Google Translate)

One step further indeed. The beauty of pediatric projects is that a designer can be as wildly imaginative as a child. It’s worth noting that this design in particular is a fanciful decor that will appeal to both six year olds and sixteen year olds, not an easy balance to strike.

[via Offecct blog ]

Rooms that Rock 4 Chemo

Jennifer Jones's "Delores Room"

Lisa Silverman's "Dragonfly Room"

Lisa Silverman's "Dragonfly Room"

The above before-and-after transformations were made possible by Rooms that Rock 4 Cancer, a small, simple San Fransisco non-profit striving to connecting hospitals and clinics that provide outpatient chemotherapy with interior designers willing to donate their time and effort to transform drab chemotherapy rooms. The project was started in May 2011 when artist Nancy J. Ballard donated a watercolor to her San Fransisco doctor’s office. The narrative on the website goes like this – “Dr. Hufford was overjoyed with the artistic gifts of generosity, yet she saw a much bigger future for the project. In an effort to revamp the chemotherapy rooms in their entirety, Nancy reached out to twenty local interior designers for their professional aid. Within three days, six designers had reacted enthusiastically, volunteering their time and creative efforts for the first RTR4C Project.” The projects are funded by donations and there have been five room makeovers to date, four at Dr. Stephen Hufford’s office and one at the Marin Cancer Care. Ballard is in conversation with additional cancer treatment centers.

It’s a remarkably simple idea that makes a big impact on these small spaces. Though one might argue that employing the services of interior designers without specific healthcare training isn’t ideal, the rooms had no discernible design scheme in their before pictures, so any practicing designer’s vision will effectively enhance the existing utilitarian spaces. The project provides publicity for the designers involved, taking the “decorator’s showcase” house idea and applying it to healthcare spaces. An inspiring project, that I hope reaches far and wide.

Forma Design

AFTER PICTURE: Capital Oral & Facial Surgery Center

BEFORE PHOTO: Capital Oral & Facial Surgery Center

Obeid Dental

bloo dental

Forma is a small Washington DC studio who’s designers created these sleek integrated design solutions. The above images, of the Capital Oral & Facial Surgery Center, Obeid Dental, and bloo dental, represent three of the nine healthcare projects the primarily residential studio has completed. bloo is my personal favorite, spirited and particularly charming because the dentist’s passion is scuba diving. From bloo dental’s website:

From the dictionary we learn the pronunciation of the word “blue” is “bloō”, which has been chosen as the name of our practice. Not only is blue Dr. Rahim’s favorite color, but it also reminds him of one of his favorite places: the ocean, which offers peace and tranquility. With this concept in mind, Dr. Haress Rahim and his architect (FORMA Design) dove into unchartered waters to design a modern practice using state-of-the-art technology with an office decor that lends itself to the blue color scheme complete with ocean graphics, curved architecture and textured seapod walls.

There is also a youtube video in which Dr. Rahim gives a through tour of his new office, and you can tell he truly loves the new space. Forma does a great job drawing inspiration from the personalities of their private healthcare clients – the website explains that Dr. Obeid “wanted an office that reflected his progressive personal and pushed the envelope on all levels” and so they strove to create an ultramodern luxurious space, and succeeded. At the moment, Forma is taking on projects primarily in the DC area but given their portfolio, they have the potential to reach much further. Each project does immediately read as a contemporary medical space, but the soft sculptural curves, unexpected textures, sleek furniture,  and thoughtful non-clinical lighting consistently create a spirited personality so many fail to cultivate.

Ryue Nishizawa, Hiroshi Senju Museum

Here we are again with this is a ______ but imagine if it were a hospital/clinic. Part of the goal of this blog is to encourage a loosening of the rigid healthcare building typology by infusing it with ideas from other genres of building. Healthcare designers are, largely by practical necessity, tied to a rather specific and stale typology. While certain elements of healthcare are fixed, there’s room for exploration and experimentation architects and administrators often fail to creatively engage with. As a blogger, I get to dream big. This is a museum in Japan, dedicated to painter Hiroshi Senju, but imagine if it were a hospital. (Bonus fact: Senju’s large scale paintings of waterfalls would, coincidentally, be stunning in healthcare environments.)

Back to the design of the museum. Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa designed the single story building in collaboration with Senju. The most prominent feature are the four gashes in the space, which allow lush gardens and natural light to insert themselves into the very core of the building. There are over 150 different species of plants growing on the property. With all the discussion of the importance of sunlight and connection to nature in healthcare design, perhaps it’s time to look beyond the window and the traditional healing garden and into a more revolutionary approach that allows nature to more brashly infiltrate a space. From archdaily:

The floor gently follows the pre-existing contours of the land, subtly swelling and dipping throughout the gallery. A series of organically-shaped light wells puncture through the roof, injecting pockets of greenery within the interior. Deeps eaves, silver screens, and UV-cut glass panels control the amount of daylight intake while allowing in the qualities of the forest.

Michael Graves for Stryker

We know him for mass produced design collaborations with companies like Target and Disney, but industrial design’s household darling shifted some of his focus onto the more obscure realm of healthcare furniture design after he became paralyzed eight years ago. The above video details his four-piece furniture suite for hospital rooms, a collaboration between Michael Graves Design Group, Stryker, and Capital Health.

In 2009 Michael Graves formed a design partnership with one of the world’s great medical technology companies, Stryker, to address “the last frontier in healthcare design, the patient room.” The two companies worked together to conduct months of ethnographic research, studying the environment and the way current furniture is being used. The result of this joint venture is a suite of patient room furniture which demonstrates Graves’ philosophy that objects in healthcare environments can have a symbolic as well as a pragmatic function, with straightforward solutions that combine simple utility, functional innovation and elevated aesthetics.

In a New York Times interview last spring, Graves suggested that the current collection will not be the end of his collaboration with Stryker, explaining that “We’re cleaning up the patient room and ultimately everything you’d expect someone like me to do in a hospital besides technical equipment, as well as the room itself.”

David Wiseman/ Shepard Fairy West Hollywood Library

Los Angeles designer David Wiseman was commissioned to create these gorgeous trees for a new branch of the LA public library. Can you imagine how beautiful a Wiseman installation would be in a medical center atrium? I am clearly drawn to white trees in public art settings that require graceful, thoughtful, meditative works. Fastcodesign explains:

Platanus bibliotechalis features stark white tree trunks that climb some 60 feet up and around the library’s soaring interior stairwell. Cast in porcelain from sycamore bark, they represent a made-up species inspired by L.A.’s indigenous sycamores, some of which grow in a nearby park.

The trees are designed to usher the outdoors ins–to, as the press release says, create “a link between the park… and the library itself.”

Wiseman was  recently commissioned by John Galliano to create site-specific installations in Dior flagship stores worldwide, so it’s not a surprise that the installation has a decidedly high-end feel to it. The library also features murals by heavy hitters Shepard Fairey, Retna, and Kenny Scharf, and is a stunning example of a public building effectively using high profile art to add some much needed humanity to an intimidating and often bland typology.

(via fastcodesign)