When Form Imitates Function
Woodbury Dermatology Clinic, Bartlett, Tennessee
Owner/Client: Woodbury Dermatology Clinic
Completion date: June 2006
Architecture and Interior Design: archimania
Construction: Montgomery Martin General Contractors
Photography: © Jeffrey Jacobs Photography
Total building area (sq. ft.): 5,226
Total construction cost: $1,218,980
When the Woodbury Dermatology Clinic approached archimania to design its new office, everyone involved knew that there had to be something special about the building. Located in a retail district in Bartlett, Tennessee, both the owner and architect were concerned that, without a unique and noticeable exterior, the building would be lost amid the surrounding auto dealerships. The result? The 5,226-square-foot clinic features a steel, wood, stone, and glass façade that stands as a clear symbol to patients that this is no ordinary clinic. The design, which has a contemporary feel and bold look, even passed the stringent requirements and demands of the Bartlett design review commission. HEALTHCARE DESIGN Associate Editor Chris Gaerig spoke with archimania Principal Todd Walker, AIA, to discuss the building's standout exterior, comfortable interior, and the challenges the firm encountered while designing it.
A distinguished exterior
Todd Walker, AIA: We wanted a building with significant height so it wouldn't get lost in the low, horizontal retail atmosphere. We knew it would be a one-story clinic, so we created a double-height space in the lobby to add verticality. Beyond the glossy materials like stainless steel, we also wanted to use materials unlike anything in the clinic's retail context. Stone and Spanish cedar are earthy, contrasting the stainless, clear aluminum and concrete. Not only did we use these materials on the exterior, but we also used them in the interior lobby space. A lot of emphasis was placed on the lobby/waiting area for patient comfort.
A big consideration for the doctor was waiting time; the lobby/waiting area was extremely important to him. He treats a lot of older patients, who tend to wait longer periods because they come early and may have several guests with them. Natural lighting was also very important; therefore, an expansive amount of glass was used in this facility.
One major focus in the lobby was the seating. We wanted to create a lounge-like atmosphere, something very comfortable. The chairs, which fit in the context of the space, are upholstered with a plush, yet soothing, blue fabric. Coupled with the lobby's natural wood and stone, the chairs create a soft and comfortable atmosphere.
Clinical versus public spaces
There are two main architectural components: one is the waiting area and the other, of course, is the clinic itself. Wrapped in stainless steel, the clinic is a low, one-story volume with oversized windows to let natural light into every space, except the treatment rooms. The doctor wanted all of the light in the treatment rooms to be artificial and controllable. His work must be precise, and his treatment rooms are similar to surgical suites. To set apart the clinic component, we chose to use a stainless steel material, clearly defining it as a different part of the building. As expressed by the stainless steel, the clinic is very precise, very clean, very exact, and very refined. Subliminally, the materials evoke the feel of a surgical ward.
When entering the clinic, visitors are greeted by two things: a nurses' station and exam rooms. Once in the clinic, a patient spends most of his or her time in the treatment room; when in the lobby, the patient enjoys a relaxing lounge space. The owner viewed these components as two separate functional entities. From the patient's point of view, one has an understanding that they provide two different experiences. The relaxing waiting environment in the lobby space evokes a sense comfort and understanding before entering the clinic for treatment.
On the rear of the building, there is a smaller volume that serves as a seminar room and learning center. This component expresses itself architecturally like the front façade. Here, employees can relax and enjoy learning without feeling trapped in a utilitarian classroom.
The site is long and narrow. A standard mainstream design would be a square building, with patient parking in the front and staff parking in the rear. Instead, we designed a building that is long and linear, much like the site itself. This approach allowed us to avoid a typical horizontal building design. We placed the waiting area toward the front, letting it serve as building's main façade. The entry is split between the clinic and the waiting area. Employees park toward the rear, and patients park along the side of the building. An additional private entrance is placed near the rear seminar room, where doctors and employees can park and not be seen by patients upon entry.
Ultimately, the design of the building creates a new brand image for Woodbury Dermatology Clinic. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing, the owner spent that money to create a unique clinic design. As a result, the building has become something of a billboard for his practice, attracting patients and increasing revenue. It is a study in the power of brand-centered architecture. HD
For more information on archimania, visit http://www.archimania.com or call 901.527.3560.