Students Learn Healthcare Design Hand in Hand With Designers

August 21, 2012
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Jacky Long (left), a graduating interior design student from Wentworth Institute of Technology, is pictured with Chu Foxlin (right) from Tsoi/Kobus & Associates (TK&A). As part of an annual partnership, professionals from TK&A work with Wentworth students to help guide them through a healthcare design project. Photo credit: Wentworth Institute of Technology. Two preliminary design reviews allow students to present their basic concepts and receive feedback from their professors and TK&A’s staff, concluding in a third and final presentation to guest critics representing numerous Boston-area design firms and healthcare facilities. Photo credit: Wentworth Institute of Technology.
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With the help of the design community, healthcare institutions today are planning for facilities with greater longevity, efficiency, flexibility, and a better patient and caregiver experience, all while working within greater budgetary and spatial constraints. A formidable proficiency is necessary to address healthcare project complexities and bring humanistic scale and balance to the design process.

As such, professional designers have a compelling opportunity to inspire tomorrow’s design leaders: We can provide exciting learning opportunities for students to work on meaningful projects that have real-world applications, build professional networks, and gain a marketable skill set. 

One example that highlights a college and industry collaboration is an ongoing project involving interior design students from Wentworth Institute of Technology and designers from architecture, planning, and design firm Tsoi/Kobus & Associates (TK&A). This annual partnership, now in its fourth year, provides students the opportunity to work on a healthcare project, tasked with creating a comforting and inviting environment for patients and caregivers.

As a core part of the project, professionals from TK&A impart expertise, sharing their knowledge and offering guidance on a recurring basis. Ultimately, the collaborative goal is to cultivate a passion for healthcare design in future designers and to share that enthusiasm with the community.


The idea
The collaborative project originated with Kate Wendt, IIDA, director of interior design and associate principal at TK&A, based on her experience developing relationships with Boston’s healthcare facilities and supporting academic institutions. After participating in one of Wentworth’s interior design department studio critiques, Wendt recognized that the healthcare sector was severely underrepresented in student work.

This observation resulted in discussions between TK&A and Wentworth about the need for a more concerted effort to educate students in the design of healthcare facilities. A new senior studio project was subsequently launched at Wentworth, in which students focus on programming requirements for a unique children’s hospital. 


The syllabus
Prior to beginning schematic design, professors ask students to research topics essential to timely industry conversations, such as code requirements, safety considerations, infection control, technology, HIPAA requirements, evidence-based and Lean design, universal design and patient-centered care, and more. After thoroughly planning the layout of a typical patient floor and public amenities on the ground floor, students next turn their focus to the design and layout of a typical patient room.

They’re encouraged to select two additional programmatic aspects of their choice, developing those spaces in greater detail and integrating them into the overall branding and theme. Students also tour Children’s Hospital Boston to better understand how design intent can be practically applied to real-world functionality and experience in a healthcare space.

After completing their preliminary research, the class visits TK&A’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, office, where staffers orient students to the project and help them navigate through all aspects of the hypothetical children’s hospital program.

TK&A’s design of the new inpatient tower at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital (completed in April 2011) serves as the basis of design for the studio, but the facility is not identified to the students to encourage their own interpretation and themed design.

A site plan, building core and shell plans, elevations, and sections are provided, and students are also given a comprehensive program from which to work, inclusive of net and gross square footage allocations per each specialized hospital department and space, right down to the soiled linen staging and crash cart alcoves.

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