Designer Forum: Flooring services as a unifying and distinguishing force of design at Connecticut Children’s Infusion Center - Feb 2020
By Laurel Clark
One of the fastest growing trends in healthcare design is the emergence of clinical environments that don’t feel clinical. Healthcare organizations are increasingly drawing on the power of the built environment to enhance and elevate the patient journey, and the flooring underfoot is well-positioned to contribute to this narrative.
Research has shown that patient stress is reduced in environments that feel more familiar, comfortable and easy to navigate. Studies have also documented the positive effects of energizing color, soft forms, natural light and biophilic imagery to create a welcoming and reassuring environment for patients and their families.
However, there is an additional layer of our human experience that responds when our environments enrich us. Well-designed environments can help patients flourish by providing nourishment for mental and physiological well-being. Ordinary elements of design executed in an extraordinary way can have a positive impact on our capabilities as humans to learn and remember, respond to stress, navigate our world, and take in our environment visually and through movement. To that end, Tecton Architects strives to select materials that are sustainably sourced and evocative of a connection to the natural world, all while providing easy maintenance, slip-resistance, stability and durability.
With every new project, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center demonstrates a commitment to creating patient-centered environments of care. “Research continues to validate the large role experience design plays in creating healing environments,” says Gil Peri, president and COO of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. “Connecticut Children’s is reinventing that patient experience and ensuring we do everything we can to create a wow experience for those children that walk through our doors.”
Together, Tecton and Connecticut Children’s envision a future where healthcare can become an exciting destination for patients rather than an obligatory pit stop along the road to better health. Immersive and engaging physical environments offer children and their families a momentary escape from the realities of ongoing treatments. Of course, the challenge in crafting these enriched environments lies in establishing
balance-blending creativity and practicality, harmonizing playfulness with universal appeal, and synchronizing immersive design with the core mission of providing exceptional care.
THE INFUSION CENTER
Connecticut Children’s new infusion center in Farmington, Connecticut exemplifies this investment in imagination and the patient journey. Understanding the grueling hours that children can spend in treatment for chronic conditions, we envisioned a creative and energizing space that balances patient care and delight. Inspired by the concept of a mystical outdoor adventure, the team allocated the treatment areas into three zones-cabin, tent and camper-all with varying levels of privacy and all centered around an interactive tree sculpture created by Digital Innovations. While the tree and the virtual software that accompany it are central to the design vision, the client was adamant that the surrounding architecture serve as more than a background-both complementing and enhancing the visitor experience. In addition to the three distinctive treatment zones, other key design features include a centralized nurse station encircling the tree installation like a moss-covered root system and a waterfall in the waiting room, which offers an intriguing glimpse into the main clinical space. With such dramatic and distinct vignettes at work within a relatively small 8,000-square-foot space, the design team relied on the flooring as a unifying feature to tie the spaces together.
When selecting flooring for a healthcare space, it is no surprise that cleanability and durability are paramount. Fortunately, there are increasingly creative patterns and flexible options available on the market beyond the bland, monochromatic function-first standards of old. Understanding that the client’s top priority was for the space to not feel at all clinical, Tecton saw an opportunity with Mannington’s Color Anchor LVT to create a layout that was truly customized to complement and connect the major design features within the space. It is always a special opportunity when clients give direction to push the boundaries of design, so Tecton really wanted to test the limits of the materials in order to mold this space into something truly magical.
Wooden footbridges served as the primary inspiration for navigating the space, abstracted into plank patterns in the floors and ceilings that subtly indicate the paths of circulation throughout the space. The neutral wood tones of the main “bridges” are punched up by accents of blues and greens at key locations, creating a balance of warm and cool colors similar to the natural world. For example, at the waiting room, visitors are greeted by a graphic feature wall with a waterfall flowing into rich blue LVT tiles, which blend out into earth tone pathways and grassy forest greens.
Other “water” features in the space, such as the toilet rooms and handwash stations, are accented by blues as well, creating intuitive wayfinding for visitors. Bridge-inspired pathways also encircle the nurse station and fuse into shades of green to meet the base of the feature tree installation. Installing the amorphous pattern was made significantly easier for the contractor with a paint-by-number style detailed plan rendering provided by Mannington, which also ensured accurate quantities were identified for each color plank.
The balance of patient privacy versus provider visibility was another key consideration in the design layout. The treatment areas are all arranged in a circle around the central nurse station, both to ensure oversight of patients at high risk of infection and to give all patients a view of the interactive tree installation.
The “cabins,” which serve as longer-term treatment rooms, have barn doors with graphic frosted glass sidelights that provide privacy and comfort but with a subtle view portal for nurses to monitor care from outside the cabin. Mannington’s Realities II sheet vinyl flooring in Persian Walnut provides a convincing wood look appropriate for a cabin but with the high performance of a monolithic floor and integral coved base. It transitions smoothly into the wood tones of the LVT bridges immediately outside the cabin while complementing the vinyl wood wallcovering of the treatment bay head wall.
The “tent” treatment bays were designed to be semi-private, giving patients the option to customize their separation. Operable pocket tent doors between bays allow patients to connect with their neighbors through a secret passageway. Optional privacy curtains at the entry add a fabric element reminiscent of traditional tent construction with the added benefit of being easily interchangeable for infection control. Bright orange angled walls introduce a cheerful pop of color and dimension to the space, and the flooring likewise references the features of a tent. Here, Tecton embraced sheet vinyl’s innate materiality by selecting Johnsonite’s IQ Optima in Bedrock, a pattern evoking the familiar tarp bottom of a tent.
The “camper” bays were the most open treatment option-designed for patients eager to socialize with care providers and each other, while interacting with the tree installation. Curved metallic walls with reveals echo the panelized appearance of a classic Airstream trailer. The three treatment bays within are open to one another and united by the same sheet vinyl used in the tents. Privacy curtains are available to divide the bays as needed but are otherwise tucked out of sight in recessed pockets. An interactive LED light strip runs along the back wall of the camper, giving each patient the control to customize the color of their space to suit their mood.
The flooring also served as a key design component in the exam rooms. The design team selected whimsical wall graphics and split them in two-the first half was applied to the door of the exam room, and the second was applied to the back wall. A contrasting strip of sheet vinyl emphasizes the connection between door and wall, and when the angle is just right, the two images merge back into one. It is these kind of hidden discoveries within the space that will keep the experience exciting and engaging for patients even after repeat visits.
Connecticut Children’s Infusion Center illustrates the power of flooring to be a unifying and distinguishing force of design. It has the power to connect and separate space with a level of subtlety that can elude traditional walls and openings. Flooring also offers the opportunity to layer details in a way that enrich a design and ensure that each visit offers new discoveries for patients to uncover. From abstract footbridges with hints of water to exam room graphics that merge into one, the flooring and architecture can combine to create a playful space filled with positive distractions that add nuance to an otherwise repetitive experience.
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