One of the goals of any advanced design, architectural or interior, is to give the building and space a “personality,” a visual expression that can only belong to itself and can be mistaken for no other form or type of its kind. Recently, noted healthcare interior designer Jain Malkin took on the challenge of providing an environmental personality for a busy modern emergency department and a woman's breast health center. They serve entirely different cases and clientele, yet each has striking features that catch the eye, relax the soul, and comfort the patient and family. Here are her commentaries on each:

Eisenhower Medical Center Emergency Department, Rancho Mirage, California

“First impressions are important, and people always make an immediate assessment as to whether an environment is nurturing or threatening. As you approach the ED, you see that the vestibule is all glass and the first thing you encounter is a serene garden. There is flowing water, granite boulders, a large, slowly rotating granite ball fountain, and plants-a Zen garden that invites you to trail your fingers in the water.”

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“The nurses' stations have a sculptural quality-a way of carrying the design features of the lobby into the patient care areas. A lot of projects expend the design fee on the lobby and don't reserve an adequate amount for patient care areas. Here we have used wood-grained plastic laminate, with columns wrapped in metal for protection.”

“In lobby/waiting areas you'll notice private seating groupings with individual lighting, carpet, bookshelves and contemporary glass art in niches. Ceiling design is an element which we focus on. You can spend a fortune on features beneath the ceiling, but if you don't pay attention to the ceiling and lighting, you won't achieve the goal of a harmonious design. In fact, ceiling design is one of the first things we do; working on variations in ceiling heights, soffits, and layout of light fixtures to achieve variety in lighting levels in different areas of the space.”
Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

Steve McClelland

“I love to select art. The hand-blown glass pieces here are glued into position. I often buy art glass in San Francisco, and have created relationships with some 30 or 40 glass artists at big national crafts shows. The inset shelves and niches are part of the interior architecture. We also devote a lot of effort to getting the lighting right for the works of art. Often, in treatment areas, we'll place a 2 x 2 or 2 x 4-foot backlit film image of nature where the patient can see it when on a gurney or treatment table.”

Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland, California (page 63)

“Immediately, upon entering the center, you are in the meditation rotunda, with soft lighting, deep blue glass tiles, a limestone floor, and the sound of birds chirping and trickling water from hidden speakers. You can rest upon the limestone benches and take it all in before proceeding on to registration. It is 12 feet in diameter-and we were lucky to achieve just the right level of light and color to create a serene experience prior to undergoing the psychological stress of having a mammogram. There was no way we could actually mock-up this space but it turned out just right!”
Steve Mcclelland

Steve Mcclelland

2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

“The registration/waiting area is more energizing, with vibrant colors, columns covered with Móz metal that has iridescent finishes and is virtually indestructible, and a commissioned work of art (a sculpture with metal leaves and branches) on the ceiling. Fitting this sculpture to the space was tricky during installation and I sometimes asked myself why I selected this type of art, but it worked out fine in the end. There is, of course, a great deal of art in this suite, including a Zen ‘garden’ in the core of the exam area backed by split bamboo mounted to Lexan panels.”
2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

“To celebrate the diversity of the community served by this clinic, we developed a ‘Women of Distinction’ photo wall in the reception area with five distinguished women representing various cultures. Under each photo, text describes their respective accomplishments. Alta Bates CEO Warren Kirk was fully committed to this idea as long as our choices were not politically controversial. His support throughout for our design was what made this project happen. The women we selected for this display included Oakland native, novelist Amy Tan, architect Zaha Hadid, Olympic champion Jackie Joyner Kersey, environmental activist and Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya, and astrophysicist and former president of Purdue University Dr. France Córdova (currently Chancellor of UC Riverside, the first Latina chancellor of a university). The effort that went into selecting these individuals and acquiring photographs was unbelievable. Imagine having to select only five women from the many contenders!
2008 douglas salin

2008 douglas salin

“Obtaining photos that could be printed large enough and then obtaining the rights to publish them was another hurdle. Maya Lin, for example, was on our initial list but no one in her office would even speak to us. What began as a concept that seemed uncomplicated took an inordinate amount of time to execute. The core of the suite features 20 photographs by Paola Gianturco called Women at Work, a traveling exhibition of women in developing nations who create textiles and support their families and the economy through this work. These photos were donated by the artist, selected from the national touring exhibition. What gives this breast center its emotional impact is the many specific pieces of art that really resonate with women. They are interwoven with the interior architecture, not added at the end of the project.”

“A second rotunda on the route from the waiting area to the dressing and procedure rooms is Faith's Place, dedicated to the memory of a much loved local TV broadcaster who lost her battle with breast cancer. The Friends of Faith, a group of her colleagues, asked that a memorial be created to honor her. Along with her portrait on the wall are her biography and quotations from Mother Teresa and Maya Angelou that are particularly relevant to her.” HD

Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland, California

Space planning and interior architecture: Jain Malkin Inc.

Design team: Joost Bende, AIA; Jain Malkin, CID, AAHID; Kelly Kreuzinger

Architecture: Ratcliff

Lighting design: Jain Malkin Inc.

Art consulting: Jain Malkin Inc.

Contracting: Turner

Photography: © 2008 Douglas Salin

Special works of art:

Metal leaf sculpture (lobby): Koryn Roystad

Photos of women at work (internal corridor): Paola Gianturco. Photos taken in Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Turkey, India, Thailand, Guatemala, South Africa

Misc. glass art, photography: various artists

Tennity Emergency Department

Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, California

Interior architecture: Jain Malkin Inc.

Design team: Denise Burkett, Jain Malkin, CID, AAHID, Jamie Bauer

Architecture: Moon Mayoras

Lighting design: Jain Malkin Inc. and Syska Hennessy

Art consulting: Jain Malkin Inc.

Contracting: Turner

Photography: Steve McClelland

For further information, visit http://www.jainmalkin.com.

Healthcare Design 2009 November;9(11):58-67