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The recent trends in healthcare design seem to point to a cross-pollination of both the residential and hospitality markets within hospitals and medical facilities. Because people feel more comfortable and have been shown to heal more quickly in environments that feel more like home, the use of hospitality-type furnishings in patient room designs makes a lot of sense.
But what if the patients that your client caters to are busy, affluent professionals with little time in their schedules for a lengthy visit to a stuffy doctor's office? What if your client provides state-of-the art medical care under the mantra, "Healthcare without Complexities?" And what if the building in which your client's medical office is located happens to be the first LEED Core and Shell (LEED-CS) Silver certified high-rise office building in the world and the first high-rise office building in Georgia to receive any LEED certification?
What type of planning and programming do you undertake for a 5,000-square-foot medical office with these kinds of goals and parameters? For the team at Stanley Beaman & Sears (SBS) of Atlanta, GA, the answers to these questions became clear as they listened to the goals and philosophy of their client, the Piedmont Physicians Group. The new medical offices are located in Atlantic Station, a 138-acre mixed-use development in Midtown Atlanta that is the site of the largest urban brownfield redevelopment in the United States (see sidebar for more information).
The main waiting area features a muted color palette, a variety of patient seating options, nature-inspired artwork and expansive windows that flood the space with daylight.
"The Piedmont Physicians Group is ahead of the bell curve in terms of healthcare," explains Tara Hill, ASID, director of interiors for SBS. "They are very forward-thinking and wanted a state-of-the-art facility that was very clean and refined." Unlike a lot of medical offices, the doctors did not want expansive private offices, she says, but instead opted for more shared work space and larger exam rooms.
The client expressed a strong desire for excellence in their new offices-comparable to their dedication to provide excellence in quality healthcare. In addition, they had a strong desire for the interiors to reflect a patient-focused approach that is free of complexities. From day one, explains Hill, the client was enthusiastic about the initial designs, and they achieved consensus on the plans quickly, which helped make for a successful project.
Admittedly, Hill says the design team at SBS was somewhat apprehensive because the design is so ‘modern classic.' "Some [designers] have said it may look a bit institutional and have asked us, ‘Are the patients going to get this?'" she recalls. SBS did not want the design to come off as being too ostentatious, but according to the client, the compliments and positive remarks from patients about the space just keep coming. If that weren't proof enough of the project's success, it was also recently awarded the ASID Georgia Chapter's Gold Award for Healthcare.
Upon arriving at the front door, patients feel secure and in safe hands, as well as a sense of control of how they want to utilize the facility. This is not unplanned, according to Hill, who explains that the tenets of patient-centered design played a key role in the design of the space.
"Patient control is huge in healthcare," she emphasizes. "For us, the plan is very intuitive, and it's very important in healthcare that wayfinding is effortless for patients." While it is obviously critical in a larger hospital setting, wayfinding is important even in a small facility and can be achieved through architectural elements such as floor patterns, ceiling planes and key artwork that help patients find their way to the check-out counter, says Hill.
Wayfinding through the main corridor is made effortless through simple architectural elements such as floor patterns, ceiling planes and key artwork that help patients find their way to the check-out counter.
Kiosks in the reception area that allow patients to check-in electronically also contribute to their sense of control over how they use the medical facility. While it may not be as obvious, different seating elements in the lobby have the same effect. "We provided a variety of seating options so that patients can choose where they feel most comfortable sitting," says Hill; this includes bench seating, lounge chairs, and sofas as well as guest chairs in exam rooms, which offer a parent, family member or loved one a comfortable place to sit if they so desire.
Exam rooms are deliberately free of clutter and reflect a clean aesthetic consistent with the excellent care provided; guest chairs offer family members an unobtrusive place to sit.
Another tenet of patient-centered design that played a role in the design of the Piedmont Physicians Group's office was to bring nature into the space. In an urban setting, such as in the Atlantic Station, views to nature may not be available, so the concept of putting patients in touch with nature may not always be literal, notes Hill.
"It could be imagery; it could be natural light; it could be finishes that make you feel nature-paneling, surfaces, artwork-and we do a lot of that here," she suggests. "In this space, what you see when you look out the windows wasn't something we couldn't control. But we wanted floods of natural light to enter the space." As a result, eight out of 12 exam rooms in the plan are located on the perimeter of the building, and they receive a flood of natural light due to the generous ceiling heights that range from 9 to more than 10 feet, while mini-blinds obstruct the view.
Although the project was not slated for LEED certification (the LEED-CI rating system was still in its pilot phase during construction), Hill says that sustainability is important to SBS as well as to the client, and green products were selected whenever possible.
Ultimately, the space conveys a signature metropolitan statement that would serve as an aesthetic benchmark for all general practice healthcare environments. The interiors are designed with a vocabulary that focuses on a new medical ideology; one of reverence and the highest standard of care. This vocabulary uses simplicity of horizontal lines, planar elements and purity of materials to provide a tailored background combined with subtle touches of crisp color, architectural lighting and gallery artwork.
The interiors are soft, sophisticated and clean-focusing on architectural elements and purity of materials. Every detail, from recessed magazine holders to soap dispensers and coat hooks, is taken into consideration. The end result is one of purity, serenity and elegance, effectively supporting the client's notion of "Healthcare without Complexities."
PIEDMONT PHYSICIANS GROUP AT ATLANTIC STATION
232 19th St. NW; Ste. 7220
Atlanta, GA 30363
Stanley Beaman & Sears
135 Walton St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
PROJECT DESIGN TEAM
Kimberly Stanley, AIA, ASID, principal
Tara Rae Hill, ASID, director of interiors
Ina Sherman, allied ASID, interior
designer, furniture specialist
Dena Womack, IIDA, interior designer
Lisa Lin, design team member
Trey Champion, associate IIDA,
Malone Construction Co.
Jim Roof Creative
Deljou Art Group; Marguerite Means
Lumensource; Mark Mirza