Perkins+Will principal Tama Duffy Day anticipates a gradual transition away from the bumper crop of replacement hospitals that have been a profit center for decades at her firm. “The fifty-year hospitals have mostly been redesigned for the next fifty years, so we are going to have more projects that are medium size or smaller,” says the healthcare global interior design leader.
She sees a new focus on wellbeing and believes it will move into tech, science, education: “It’s a fantastic time to re-imagine the practice of healthcare,” she says. Design, she posits, will become integral to the larger health marketing message. Her firm is playing with the idea that providers sell health as a product, one that patients buy like an new skirt at the mall. In some cases, that means looking through a retail lens quite literally. Imagine the patient who will be tempted to seek treatment at a clinic in the local Walgreens or Target.
“As consumers of health, we'll be able to determine where we want to seek medical care,” Duffy Day states. “As a patient, you will look at the display in the window and decide whether you want to walk in.”
Of course, those patients will be shopping to satisfy various needs. Whitman-Walker Health, a provider known for HIV care in Washington, D.C., has asked the firm to help extend its offerings into alternative medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy. For other clients, she says, Perkins+Will has an opportunity to look at behavioral health and produce facilities to support mental wellbeing. The key is an aesthetic that uplifts. When you go somewhere and you're not feeling well, she says, the space shouldn't make you feel worse.
Cancer patients can be fragile physically and mentally, so Duffy Day prescribes “calm, quite, comforting and connected with nature.” A facility for sports injuries, where patients visit weekly for rehabilitation, might look more like a gym, with music and the bustle of people walking around.
In both extremes, her team seeks cultural connections for spaces they create. Value was added to a series of pharmacies by making them feel more like an Apple store than a CVS. “We’re using all of the products and materials you would typically find in corporate office environments,” the designer notes. Terrazzo, solid surfacing, uplifting colors and—increasingly—white, which is no longer considered “institutional.” However, Duffy Day likes to pique “every aspect of ones’ senses: smell, sound.” And she highlights the importance of tactile elements. “If I am going to be touching a handrail is there something pleasant about it which is memorable?”