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Students Take on Symposium Attendees with Outside the Box Ideas

Samantha Duba, Terence Houk, and David Nienhueser

Professionals Join Forces for Developing Future Designers

As an innovative way to successfully conceptualize and enable generative space, numerous experts were brought together for challenging program: members of the Generative Space field, students from design schools around the country, academic professors, as well as medical planners and designers. It is through this blend of experience levels and variation of disciplines that environments were envisioned which have the potential to impact the lives of any and all who occupy them. The array of talent and knowledge gathered were the ingredients necessary for a successful recipe in creating a place that flourishes.

For the second year in a row, the Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo played host to students from around the country, and provided a most appropriate venue for the required comprehensive task.  Five teams were invited to be a part of a Student Design Charette which focused on two topics trending high during this year’s HFSE: 1) Generative Space and 2) Retail Health.  A student design charrette was the catalyst to bring all interested and enlightened individuals together with a common goal of conceptualizing generative space.

Charette: a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project (often of a design interest) attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions. 

These teams of future design professionals did not engage in a design competition, but a cooperative activity to resolve / solve current questions in the healthcare industry.  How do we design space that heals?  How do we be create a facility model that is active in the community instead of the reactive model used in the past?  How do we work with the patient instead of the illness?

This year the Student Design Charette was overseen by a few different groups: AIA Chicago’s Healthcare Knowledge Community in partnership with The CARITAS Project, HFSE, and a select group of professionals acting as the Panel of Experts.  While here, each student team was also hosted by a local design firm who provide knowledge and advice throughout the Charette process.  These firms were Perkins+Will, VOA, Legat Architects, the Eckroth Planning Group, and Cannon Design.  In addition to acting as a team host, Cannon Design was the banner sponsor and provided significant funding which allowed the students to stay in Chicago for 5 nights gratis.  The partnership of so many experts to bright students proved ideal. 

The Charette Kick-off & Design Challenge

The five student teams haled from Philadelphia University, Texas A&M University, Harrington College of Design, Iowa State and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Prior to arriving in Chicago, the schools were all given a pre-assignment structured as an information gathering exercise.  Not having revealed what the Charette Challenge would be for 2014, each student was asked to spend time in a local Outpatient / Ambulatory / Community health center of their own choosing; while it was given that the students could pick any type of facility they had access to, they were encouraged to think beyond the local drugstore clinics, MinuteClinics, or urgent care centers.  In a matter of convenience, the minute clinics were a popular choice providing valuable observations, while others sought out agencies such as holistic therapy studios for their evaluations.  To help them in their task, they were given a generic list of questions, similar to a functional program, to assist them in their research gathering.  Thus armed, the teams prepared for arrival in Chicago.

On the Saturday evening prior to the Symposium, the teams and members of their host firms gathered in the meeting space at Gensler. The Kick-off event began with a crash course in Generative Space, healthcare design and public speaking.  Speaking to them of Generative Space was Dr. Wayne Ruga, founder of the Healthcare Symposium.  Dr. Ruga was more than excited to participate with the students again this year and was really able to lay the groundwork for a design philosophy very new to most of the students.  Following quickly on Dr. Ruga’s heels was the second keynote of the night given by Marc Suave.  Marc is one of the healthcare leaders for Gresham Smith & Partners and spoke eloquently on the future of healthcare and what might be expected of the industry where the community is concerned.  Marc also served as one of the keynote speakers at the Symposium later in the week.  Following the keynotes the students were led in a short social experiment: the Empathy Exercise.  The Empathy Exercise challenged the students to apply their observations in such a way that they could simulate the patient experience and perception of the environment. Groups were asked to compile patient’s fears, thoughts, hopes, and concerns through collaborative discussions, into a single set of feelings to address. The result of their group conversation was the context for forming their Mission Statement. 

Finally, they were presented with the Design Challenge: selecting a place / population / community that is currently underserved by the healthcare industry and developing a potential solution to bringing health services to them which utilizes Generative Space principles.  Each team, with assistance from their academic advisor, their host firm mentor, and CAIA HCKC members focused first on the Mission Statement.  The Mission Statement would help define the ‘who/what’ and the target ‘need’.  It would also serve to keep the teams on track as a conceptual solution slowly formed over the next 36 hours. 

Leading Up to the Symposium Presentation

Chicago architecture and planning firms graciously hosted the students by offering up their offices and their Sunday to work with their team on developing their solution concept.  The day consisted of intense brainstorming sessions, reviews, re-writes and occasional critiques by fellow colleagues.  Slowly various solutions were defined and formed throughout the offices. 

All schools reconvened Sunday night at the Dirtt Environmental Solutions showroom, which served as a community for the teams to come together and discuss their project progress in a collegiate manner.  Over dinner, teams took turns offering their ideas, debating philosophies, and making clarifications to help streamline their concepts.  This event also proved insightful for the students: it assisted them in preparing a clean and well thought-out performance for presenting to the Symposium attendees.

The student teams presented in two sessions at the conference, entitled “Completely Reimagining Outpatient Health and Wellness Environments”. These sessions were synced with the Generative Space Track proceedings at HFSE. The first session focused on the students delivering their proposals. The second session, which followed after a short break, contained Q&A from the Panel of Experts as well as the audience.

The students were very excited to receive comments from working professionals about their work and ideas at such a unique venue.  The conversation between the paneled experts and students, as well as the highly participatory audience, filled the students with positive encouragement and energy for future innovative design in the real world.  There was no winning solution.  All solutions held innovations that could be in whole or in part implemented today!  So the winning outcome was in the highly energized and collaborative discussions which were held in these sessions / presentations of the solutions and in the exhibit hall later that day.

In Conclusion and Looking Ahead

There is a continued need for greater understanding of the influence of space on the individual, especially in the health and wellness environment. To understand this environment it takes a comprehensive group of designers, planners, health providers of multiple needs and ages. Furthermore the challenge to the designer is to create a space that can influence any and all occupants, over an extended period of time, in a positive way.

The Student Design Charette brings all these individuals together in a highly engaging and resourceful way. This collaboration leads to several key outcomes:

1. Students leave with a familiarity of healthcare design, exposure to practicing professionals and knowledge of Generative Space principals

2. Healthcare professionals can see potential innovations which could be placed into practice

3. Participants are enlightened to continue the conversation of Generative Space and its impact on health and wellness community 

Download the presentation from this year's event:
Completely Reimagining Outpatient Health and Wellness Environments

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