Thursday, August 24, 2017
BLOG: A Sense for Interior Design - The Design Story of the Levine Autism Clinic|
When you visit a doctor’s office, what do your senses notice? Unfamiliar sights and smells? Unusual sounds and even surfaces? The experience can be uncomfortable for many of us, but for kids faced with disabilities, it can undoubtedly be intimidating and overwhelming.
Clark Patterson Lee (CPL) is often challenged to design inviting, bright, interactive spaces that support state-of-the-art healthcare practices. The Levine Autism Clinic at the University of Rochester embraces the positive stimulation of one’s senses to provide a unique patient care experience.
Intended to specially treat patients with autism, mental illness and neurological diseases, the building was designed with a sensory experience in mind. Bright, vibrant colors, specialized lighting, and a tree top theme carry throughout the space, allowing patients a chance to become more comfortable with their surroundings, and less stressed about seeing the doctor.
“Designing for the patient is paramount,” said Susan Clark, CPL’s Senior Interior Designer. “But when focused on a group of children with special needs and particularly the sensory considerations associated with autism, every detail becomes exponentially important,” added Clark.
With such a detailed design comes in-depth research.
“Through research and personal experiences, we tried to design a space that was comfortable, safe and intriguing to a child,” said Carly Owczarczak, Interior Designer.
CPL worked closely with an autism expert provided by the University of Rochester, who emphasized the importance of sensory impact on leading patients throughout the visit with minimal disruption or overload.
Details included an open and welcoming lobby, windows or images at the end of every corridor, placement of materials and equipment in exam rooms, and a noise-reducing, circular corridor design. Also included is the tree top design, which was selected because of its inherent natural, calming familiarity, and safety representation.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, from an infant to an older person, everyone has a connection with nature,” said Michelle Trott, Principal Architect.
Upon entering the space through the stairwell or elevators, visitors are surrounded with digital graphics of trees on the walls and leaves in the floor design.
“The wayfinding of the leaf floor patterning lead you to the front registration desk. The desk is a conceptual sun with radial rays acting as panels to divide the registration windows. The waiting room has a variety of green acoustical clouds and rain drop pendant lights that create the feeling of waiting in the tree canopy. The leaves at the desk light up to first, visually show that the registration window is open, and second, to keep a child’s interest while their parent is signing in,” Owczarczak described.
“While researching, we discovered that a patient might need goals to get to their destination,” said Owczarczak. “There are alcoves along a couple of the corridors for a patient to use if they need a quiet cubby to feel safe in. We tried to incorporate several key points in the floor patterns, ceiling design, wall graphics and artwork to help the patient, family and staff move easily through the space,” she said.
Thoughtful and innovative design has the ability to transform brick and concrete blocks of buildings into functional, welcoming, helpful places where patients in our community can go to thrive.
There is an incredible sense of reward and accomplishment felt by our healthcare designers in knowing they helped make the doctor visits for kids and their families just a little easier.
The Levine Autism Clinic had a grand opening spring 2017, and continues to successfully serve our community.
Amanda Koneski is a Marketing Coordinator with extensive experience in creating content for websites, social media, brochures and mailings; designing digital and print advertising materials; assisting in script writing, planning, and directing for radio and TV commercials; and organizing events. Amanda's everyday focus on marketing includes proposal coordination, social media management and quality content creation. Her hobbies include kayaking, hiking, decorating and campaigning for United Way.
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