In their ongoing quest to promote healthy lifestyles, health care providers have introduced a flurry of wellness-focused programs in recent years. Health care architects, as partners in this journey, have a duty to design hospitals, medical office buildings, and other facilities that encourage wellness.
My first entry on this topic discussed facilities’ programmatic response to this new perspective on health care. This time, I’d like to turn the focus to aesthetics . . . what architecture does with light, materials, colors, and space to create a pleasant atmosphere. What if a facility’s design could actually motivate occupants to make healthier choices? Good news: it has been done.
A Display Window with Benefits
The Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center offers a strong example of architecture’s ability to influence healthy behavior. The retrofit converted a bank in a 40-year-old building into a community health center.
One of the biggest aesthetic challenges that we confronted was that the bank was dark and inward-focused. For inspiration, we drew from display windows that address street activity in urban setting. The resulting large-scale extended display window at Erie HealthReach Waukegan engages the community on the outside and involves people on the inside.
This element houses the grand stair, brings natural light deep into the building, and glows with activity. Additionally, the vibrant grand stair has had a more direct impact on patients and staff . . .
A Picture of Health
Many of us have experienced a portrait painting whose eyes seem to follow us. The grand stair inside the display window is kind of like that, with one major exception: instead of making people uncomfortable, it encourages people to use it!
The stair feature is highly visible from both outside and inside the building. Its openness has actually inspired patients and staff to take the stairs rather than the elevator. The space entices occupants with bright colors, sleek materials, contemporary lighting, and abundant views.
Strong design like this reinforces the movement toward promoting optimum health.