Posted in IAR331

Designing With Intention

Design for a purpose and designing with intention.  How many times have we seen buildings that don’t fit into our idea of what these two sayings mean?
photo credit: http://design-milk.com/lou-ruvo-center-for-brain-health-in-las-vegas-by-frank-gehry/
Our Social and Behavioral Aspects of Interior Architecture class, this semester, has studied a few buildings so far that have suggested they were built with the architects ego in mind.  One such building is the Lou Ruvo Brain Center in Las Vegas.  This facility is used to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s, to name a few.  Many in our class were surprised when they discovered the form this building took.  With large twisted panels of metal enveloping a cubic core of rooms, it is certainly very sculptural, but does it feel inviting to the patients who need to seek treatment here?  The vast majority of students said no.  According to an article written by Anna Marshall-Baker[i],  “… human responses to shape and color,to the value of objects or spaces within environments, rarely occur because of aesthetic, formal, syntactic qualities, but rather because of personal,individual ties or emotions.” Patients using this facility, generally between ages 70 and 90ish, are brought up in a period of time where modern buildings meant something different to them than what many feel modern means today.  Can they enter this environment, look at it’s modern qualities and relate them to themselves in some way? Or is it just creating an uneasy emotion where they are harder to comfort?  Would this building be more successful 50 years from now where the patients would have a different idea of what modern/sculptural architecture is about?
During our second year fall semester, our class was required to take an Environmental Studies III studio.  This studio changed the way I looked at space and light and how it all affects people who come in contact with the space.  We were given a project designed for a woman who was interested in beginning a cancer wellness center for younger people.  The class visited the actual land it was projected to be erected on, and we needed to research many different areas to come up with our own design.  We were required to discuss why this would be the best use of land space, as well as interior space.   Here is what we designed:
photo from personal collection
·     Light helps in recovery and well being, so we designed a large, yet open building that brought the outside in through use of natural light and easy of circulation
·     Dividing the space into zones was important to us.  To have a quiet zone with a meditation center, library and reading/media room so that people could use itas a place for contemplation.
·     Building into the land.  Using the land to our advantage and to help create outdoor private garden/sanctuaries, green roofing to help with heating and cooling. This helps not only create ways to save energy, but also it is comforting to feel “enveloped” or swaddled.  We used the earth to help in this way.
·     Using different features, like water and nature(such as nature walking trails) to help sooth the soul.
In the end, I feel our design was successful because we put a lot of thought into how the space was there for the enhancement of people’s lives, encouraging community involvement, yet offering private spaces for reflection if requested.   If more designers actually designed with their “clients” in mind, there might be a reduction of buildings being abandoned due to the inability to be used for what it was intended.

[i]Marshall-Baker, Anna. “Knowledge in Interior Design.” Journal of Interior Design 31.1 (2005):Xvii. Print.

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Lover of architectural history, family, building design, coffee and dogs.

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