April 8-14 marks the American Institute of Architects' National Architecture Week 2012, and the theme this year is "Design Connects," meant to highlight both the power of design and the positive role that architects play in our communities. The AIA is hosting a national conversation via multiple social media networks on "how architecture contributes to health, our sense of security, productivity, identity, and how it’s a mirror of our values and a force for the sustainability of our planet."

With that concept in mind, I've been making a personal effort to really look at my own surroundings here in Cleveland this week, starting with my own house--a century home on Cleveland's West Side that I have an ongoing love/hate affair with. For example, I love the beautiful (and recently restored) hardwood floors and trim; I hate the cracking plaster and the small bedrooms. But I do feel secure there, productive there, and it absolutely reflects my identity--plus it is a model of sustainability, having lasted 100 years and all. I have no idea who actually designed my home, but it is a classic of design and craftsmanship that absolutely "connects" with me and my world.

Making the leap to healthcare design, the idea of connecting is even more important. In today's endlessly competitive market, making that connection to the surrounding community is more important than ever. I think back to when I was growing up; if you fell and broke your arm, you went to the hospital down the street, no questions asked. Now, with more and more choices out there, and more competition for the healthcare dollar than ever, that thought of where to go for medical services has become the focus of much marketing and advertising across the country. Think back 15 or 20 years ago. How much advertising did you see for health systems around you? Now think about today. I know in Cleveland, it has increased 100-fold.

Design has a lot to do with that connection: trends such as welcoming lobby spaces in the hospitality mode, larger (and almost exclusively single-patient) rooms chock full of amenities, and many of the other design trends we've seen emerge in the last decade all help forge this bond with the user that great buildings have.

How are you celebrating National Architecture Week? Share your thoughts below or drop me a line any time.