Loud and Clear
Aleks Istanbullu got the message at a children's hearing center in California
Linas Alsenas -- Interior Design, 2/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
If there's one thing the people at the HEAR Center appreciate most, it's the ability to listen. A facility in Pasadena, California, that diagnoses and treats children with hearing deficiencies, the center charged Aleks Istanbullu Architects with an upgrade to address critical acoustic and lighting requirements. "It was asking questions, asking more questions, and having faith that the answers would accrue into a design at the end," reflects Aleks Istanbullu, AIA, who consulted the center's board, director, staff, and even the venerable founder, Ciwa Griffiths.
The result of those conversations was a drastically reorganized interior for the 1960s building. Eliminating a doughnut-shaped circulation corridor freed Istanbullu to develop a more legible and logical layout, retaining only two rooms from the existing floor plan. In addition to administrative and meeting areas, therapy and consultation rooms, and audio testing facilities, the architect was able to create several more workstations by borrowing square footage from the unnecessarily large director's office.
Carefully tailored to its function, the original structure was built without windows in order to maximize control of acoustics and lighting, the latter being important for lipreading. However, the building's total dearth of daylight proved too dispiriting. Istanbullu strategically located three skylights in common areas—an addition that, incidentally, provides substantial energy cost savings. Internal windows of laminated glass increase transparency throughout and create an impression of openness.
And while the building primarily serves children, Istanbullu says he chose not to pursue a conventional child-care aesthetic that too often "looks like a toy." The new interior is unabashedly modern but incorporates pastels and light wood to lend warmth. When director Josephine Wilson lauds the space as "comfortable and child-friendly, with a minimum of distractions," you can hear the pride in her voice.