Architects Flex Creative Muscles

Business Journal Mid-November 2018

Big projects give architects a chance to try new things and innovate unusual designs. BY JOSH MEDORE

There’s plenty of work to be had by the region’s architectural firms. Medical and assisted-living centers are popping up throughout the area. Schools are looking to bring their classrooms into a new era of education. Buildings are being repurposed and new-construction projects are churning. Not all of the projects are glamorous. Something as simple as adding a wheelchair ramp requires checking and double-checking that it follows code and fits with the rest of the structure. Those are the projects that make up much of an architect’s work. But that’s not to say their work is all mundane and monotonous. Every so often, a project springs up that allows architects to play with new ideas, improve on older methods and have fun.

“It’s why you keep doing it. I love doing this and I’ve been doing it for a long time. I personally love doing medical projects because there are so many reasons to do and try things,” says Rodney Lamber­son, principal at Strollo Architects. Earlier this year, Lamberson’s firm completed work on Mercy Health’s Howland Medical Center, a $14.5 million, 50,000-square-foot project. The center brings the medical system’s physicians, surgeons, rehabilitation, imaging and lab services under one roof.

“This project was driven by the changing nature of health-care delivery. We’re going from small, private practices of two or three physicians to being centralized,” Lamberson says. The center features plenty of technology, in­cluding check-in kiosks not all that different from what can be found in airports. But what Lamberson enjoyed most on the project was how the building itself contributes to the treatment process.

Going to a hospital can be stressful. Sterile, white hallways lead to section after section that looks the same. Rooms can feel sealed off from the outside world.

“The most salient point to the building is the relation of patients and staff to the outside, giving them as much a sense of place and calm as possible,” the architect explains.  In the examination rooms, the windows are set high on the walls so patients inside can see out, while in the physical-rehab suite, windows are glazed so outsiders can’t see in, but those inside can take in the landscape.

“Every place you go, you are oriented to the outside,” he says. “You always know where you are. We’re forever trying to get rid of that sense of fear or trepidation.” While not everything on the building was perfect, he concedes, post-opening meetings with Mercy Health staff showed Lamberson and his team at Strollo Architects what can be improved.

“It’s an iterative process that we’re always going through, trying to refine it both from the inside and outside,” he says. With that kind of information, the Howland Medical Center has informed similar projects at Strollo that have come after it, such as one in Ken­tucky that recently began construction.

“You learn from everything you do. You always find something that didn’t work as well as you hoped and you always find things that are worthy of repeating,” he says.