A healthy alternative
Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 2/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
The Integrative Medicine Centre of Central DuPage Health offers an array of nontraditional therapies, from acupuncture to bio-feedback to spiritual counseling. Likewise, architects at Loebl Schlossman & Hackl sought a nontraditional point of view in designing this facility in Geneva, Illinois, turning to Mother Nature for an atmosphere both soothingly familiar and quietly inspiring. Material and color palettes—as well as the Zen vibe—are informed by feng shui's five elements: wood, earth, fire, metal, and water.
Navigating the 5,000-square-foot center, patients encounter a restful and unified design that goes a long way to integrating a space that was once split between three levels on a sloping site. Installing a central ramp, which rises from the reception area at the front to treatment rooms at the rear, helped to reconcile the 3-foot difference in floor level—and improved wheelchair access to boot.
Culminating in an urnlike percolating fountain, backed by a circular cut-out modeled on the aperture of a Chinese moon gate, the ramp also serves mood-enhancing purposes. "It creates a decompression path, coaxing patients to leave their troubles behind as they move into the treatment areas. It's like climbing a mountain to visit an old Chinese sage," explains Jeffrey Liggett, director of interior design.
The journey to wellness starts in reception. Here, patients can fix a steaming cup of tea before settling into a slat-backed café chair or one of Christian Heimberger's plush curve-backed lounges, grouped in a librarylike vignette. Anyone with the urge to splurge can consider spa products displayed on custom maple shelving near the check-in desk.
Because the ceiling in reception soars to 15 feet, Liggett stretched cloudlike rectangles of white nylon at varying heights to bring down the scale of the volume and distract from the mechanicals above. This inexpensive solution appears throughout the project as part of LSH's strategy for meeting a tight budget of $85 per square foot.
Considerably more expensive, slate imparts calmness underfoot while meeting both clinical and acoustical requirements. The architects also used slate for reception's burbling fountain, which offers a soothing visual and sonic background. "We originally intended to have a trough of water trickling along the ramp from the treatment areas to reception, accumulating in a reflecting pool," explains Liggett. "But regulations regarding infection control forced us to contain all water elements."
Once checked in and mellowed out, visitors progress to the unisex changing room, which features custom maple lockers and Jørgen Møller's sinuous beech Taburet M stacking stools. Across the hall, group activities such as yoga and qui gong take place in the movement studio. And farther up the ramp are eight treatment rooms for fibromyalgia, migraines, arthritis, and other conditions, plus men's and women's quiet rooms for reflection before and after appointments.
Both the quiet rooms and treatment rooms feature earth-toned paint and upholstery, pale maple millwork, and cork floors, naturally endowed with antimicrobial properties. Attendants determine the mood via instrumental music and a state-of-the-art aromatherapy system. Lavender can inspire serenity, while peppermint elevates the spirits.