On December 1, I moderated a Webinar titled "Case Study: The New Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Oklahoma--Designing for a 'Nation within a Nation'" and featuring speakers Dr. Judy Goforth Parker, Louise Nicholson Carter, and Talmadge Smith. For those unfamiliar with the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center project, it is a remarkable new multiservice facility that incorporates Chickasaw tribal imagery and traditions into the very fabric of the building, creating a new state of the art place for medical care that is still housed in all the tradition of yesteryear.

The building incorporates these forms down to a near-molecular level: massing and building forms are influenced by eastern Native American culture, and specifically by Chickasaw art. The building's faceted façades and terrazzo floor patterns were influenced by traditional Chickasaw neckwear. And, of course, there is a remarkable art program that runs throughout the facility. Oklahoma stone and unfinished copper panels connect the building to its site, inspired by Native American woven blankets and baskets.

During the Q&A portion of the Webinar, many questions came up about the cost of the project (around $298/sq. ft.) and the cost of the art program in relation to that number--a rather modest and standard number, around the average you would expect for any hospital. But in incorporating the Native American imagery into the building itself, the whole project takes on a new level of integration with the art and culture of the population it serves.

In today's rough economic climate, finding the budget for an art program can be a challenge. Clever solutions like the ones used at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center help to make a large impact without spending as much money simply by thinking creatively on the architectural end.