Why I Design Healthcare Spaces For Kids
There are probably a hundred reasons why someone becomes an architect or interior designer. But for those of us who design healthcare spaces and do so especially for children, there’s a unique calling that draws us to the profession and bonds us together: designing spaces that give kids an opportunity to heal.
My passion for healthcare began at an early age. You see, both my parents worked in the healthcare profession when I was growing up. My mom worked for hospice with terminally ill kids and their siblings, and my dad was a professor and practicing pediatric dentist specializing in premature babies and kids with special needs.
In each case, both my parents supported and cared for children and their families from birth to death—not just medically, but also emotionally, and through education and product design.
While I have many memories of their experiences at work, two stick out in particular. I remember looking at images my father would use when presenting to his colleagues or students. The images showed kids with extreme deformities to their faces or mouths, the tiniest of premature babies, injuries that looked beyond repair, and conditions that no child should have to endure.
And yet I didn’t look away; I felt empathy for these kids and I wanted to understand how he was going to help them.
I also remember the many times my mother would sit quietly in the living room with a reflective look on her face, the dog contently laying by her side. At the time, all I wanted to do was make her feel better. Now I can only assume that those times she sat silently were when a patient of hers passed away.
Even though my parents experienced times of sadness in relation to their careers and patients, for the most part, I remember them having a strong will and sense of pride as they made a difference in the lives of so many. And I don’t ever remember them wanting to do anything else.
Although it took many years for me to realize just how great of an impact their experiences would have on my life, it seems to all make sense looking back on it.
Their career choice ultimately led me to my own. When I was in design school preparing my thesis project in college, I chose to convert a small rental property my family owned into a hospice house: a place to die with dignity. My peers choose projects that would have a huge design impact on society, a project that would make their mark on the world of architecture—big dreams, big ideas.
I didn’t fit into that mold. This is where my professional healthcare career began, and it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
I design spaces for children to feel safe while they heal. I create environments for those who care for the sick so they feel empowered to do the best they can, sometimes under unimaginable circumstances. I do what I do to make a difference in the lives of a few in a place that no one really wants to go to. I provide places that encourage health and wanting to be healthy, while allowing space for those needing to heal.
And I can’t imagine doing anything else.