Feature Image provided courtesy of Perkins+Will. Photo Credit: Ken Hayden
During a routine visit to her dentist a few weeks ago, BJ Miller, FASID, CCIM, overheard a conversation that was music to her ears. “Two women in the waiting room began to talk about how the office made them feel relaxed,” says Miller, president of The Vision Group Studios. Her firm designed the office as a generative space in 1996. Clearly, the project was a success.
Miller shared her experiences designing generative spaces in a panel discussion at the American Society of Interior Designer’s (ASID) Healthy, Healing Spaces event at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., last month. Other panelists included Tama Duffy Day, FASID, FIIDA, director of health and wellness at Gensler; and Nancy Pallesen, executive director of the Arlington Free Clinic.
More than 160 interior design professionals and students listened as the panelists discussed the importance of design in healthcare facilities. Creating generative spaces – or “places that flourish” – can help improve the delivery of health services and increase physician/patient engagement.
The Arlington Free Clinic, which provides free medical care to low-income, uninsured patients, opened an 8,000-square-foot facility in 2009. Pallesen says meetings with the architect and Duffy Day, who served as lead designer on the project while working for Perkins+Will, convinced her that design can truly influence healing. The Arlington Free Clinic is the first free clinic in Virginia to become LEED certified.
Hearing the clinic’s story was the highlight of the evening for attendee Dana Lehmer, ASID, NCIDQ, of DMS Design Associates. “I enjoyed seeing the design process from the many perspectives of the practitioner and the client,” she says. “I was impressed to learn that Tama Duffy Day volunteers at the clinic and is able to observe how they function to see where there could be improvements.”
Attending the event strengthened Lehmer’s conviction to learn more about the generative space theory. “It was a great confirmation of the organic design process I have already implemented, taking the time to have intimate dialogue with clients to fully understand their needs and fully acclimate the user with their environment,” she says.
Miller highlighted the importance of designing spaces that consider the interaction among people. “Due to the stress and fast pace of healthcare environments, the emphasis on how one ‘feels’ in the space is very important,” she says. “The Affordable Care Act will create more transparency in the market in regard to the customer experience in healthcare spaces. This presents a huge opportunity for the design profession.”
Duffy Day agrees. She began designing generative spaces early in her career. During the past 30 years, she has worked with research-based health systems, such as the Mayo Clinic and UCLA, as well as federally qualified health centers. “Creating a place where people flourish is inspirational to me because it’s about creating healthy, healing places for patients, their families and their caregivers,” says Duffy Day.
During the Healthy, Healing Event, Duffy Day also stressed that generative space design is not just for healthcare facilities: She talked about Gensler’s work on a newly renovated terminal at San Francisco International Airport. The terminal enhances the passenger experience through design strategies that reduce traveler stress, highlight the airport’s impressive art collection and promote sustainability.
“The airport project is a great example of generative space in a non-healthcare environment – yet an often stressful place,” says Miller. “Stress-free security checks, hospitality, exercise and meditation spaces for well-being: What a concept!”
As the evening wrapped up, many attendees seemed inspired to build on the information they received and learn more about creating functional spaces that promote the well-being of occupants. Says Duffy Day, “I enjoyed engaging in conversation with attendees and bringing more awareness to the rigor of designing healthy, healing spaces – immersing oneself in the culture and care of the organization to truly create a ‘place to flourish.’”
Susan Keen Flynn is a freelance writer and president of Keen Concepts Inc. in Cleveland. She has written articles on interior design, remodeling and landscaping for several publications, including Housetrends and ASID ICON magazines.