Healthy Curb Appeal

March 20, 2018

A new medical clinic by Mass General in Boston sheds the traditional healthcare aesthetic for an industrial look that respects its neighbors and patients.

In years past, healthcare facilities have been almost exclusively associated with sterile, institutional, and often stress-inducing environments. Thankfully, healthcare designers today are working diligently to break through the stigma of traditional healthcare interiors without sacrificing clinical needs.

Such is the case with the recently completed Mass General Assembly Row Primary Care facility, designed and constructed in partnership with Mass General Primary Care Associates, a branch of the Partners Health System, and Steffian Bradley Architects (SBA).

Designs for Health

The 7,000-square-foot facility is an innovative, team-based primary care practice located just north of downtown Boston in Somerville, Mass. The goal of the new site is to deliver a high quality, efficient, and integrated patient-centered approach of comprehensive adult primary care services in one convenient location near main public transportation lines.

Located within one of the region’s newest mixed-use retail establishments, it was important that the design of the facility reflected its environment.

“Aside from the universal goals of efficiency, quality of patient care, and return on investment, one of the first things that our client mentioned when we started the project was, ‘We need to look like we belong here and that we’re not just an average doctor’s office,’” explained Nicole Ward, senior designer/manager, Interior Design at SBA. “With national retail brands and new restaurants as neighbors, it was important that the design had curb appeal.”

To achieve this, the team borrowed principles often found within branded environments and retail design and integrated them with those required for healthcare settings. It took its cues from the project site, which is located in a former automobile factory from the Industrial Revolution, and incorporated industrial elements while being careful to ensure the forms and lines were clean and intentional to reinforce the perception of a hygienic environment, Ward explained. This was achieved in part by utilizing color for branded moments and contrasting them with large graphics, warm rustic woods, soft oxidized metals, and neat geometries.

“In our case, the driving factor behind the color was to be in line with the branding graphics and the want for a more industrial or contemporary-feeling space,” Ward noted. “Accents of black and bold teals are not synonymous with most healthcare facilities but were vital in getting the contemporary industry aesthetic that was established in the earlier stages of design.”

Arriving at the clinic, patients are welcomed by a custom wallcovering graphic that represents brand recognition and quality care. The linear and intersecting planar geometries of the ceiling and casework elements combine with warm, wood-look porcelain tiles to form the underlying goals of creating strong, intimate connections within a larger network.

The exam rooms showcase the same wood finishes and brighter hues of blue, bringing in a sense of warmth and daylight to otherwise windowless spaces often found within retail tenant environments.

Flexible Workstations

Neighboring the group of exam rooms is a large, open “hub” where all members of the care team are situated in groups of open workstations. This model allows for close collaboration of clinical team members and showcases three different levels of privacy (from open to closed) facilitating both collaborative and heads-down work in one open area. In lieu of traditional millwork nurse stations, the team opted for a furniture systems approach that will aid in future flexibility.

In terms of furniture and material selection, Ward said the team chose items that complemented the overall concept but “we did have to stay true to some of the healthcare-specific factors.”

For example, high traffic is a constant challenge for healthcare clients to keep their facilities and the products within them in good condition. Ward explained that SBA focuses heavily on making sure the final selections will hold up against the day-to-day rigors of a high-volume facility.

The Mass General Primary Care Associates project is a prime example of the power of design to break the mold of traditional, lackluster healthcare settings and to create inspiring, patient-centered environments with a healthy sense of curb appeal.

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