“Keep focusing on beautiful, inspiring spaces.”
Lynnette Tedder has been designing interiors in the health care industry for more than 20 years. “I have been in the industry a long time and ended up gravitating toward health care because of the size and complexity of the projects,” she says, adding that the nature of the projects and their clients keep her interested. “The clients are people who are in a caring industry. It’s a business, yes, but they are compassionate and caring about the people they serve. And most of all, I can really make a difference in the experience of both patients and staff. It’s emotionally rewarding.”
Currently a senior project designer for Perkins+Will in Los Angeles, Tedder serves as a health care interiors liaison to a national health care group and leads a health care forum in L.A. She has worked on corporate, commercial, retail, hospitality, and civic projects—large and small. She has also taught courses in institutional design, architecture history, and furniture and interiors at the Art Institute of California. She most recently sat down to talk with gb&d about just how much the field has changed.
gb&d: What are the biggest challenges facing health care design today?
Tedder: The constant change in a culture that is not used to changing quickly. The way care is delivered is finally moving forward, but there are many ways it doesn’t move. The design of facilities needs to be progressive, forward-thinking, and flexible. Helping the client and caregivers to see how the built environment can facilitate this is not always easy, but I see more awareness and open minds coming forward.
gb&d: How does the world of sustainability intersect with health care?
Tedder: It’s critical. Healthy materials make sense especially in this environment. Thankfully Perkins + Will has been on the forefront of research of these materials and has made great progress in helping manufacturers list their ingredients to help inform the right uses. It is easy to utilize appropriate finishes in many ways, but the flooring is still a huge challenge. There are some areas where seamless flooring is required, yet the products available are so limited due to the chemical makeup. High performance is critical and so many that do perform have toxic materials in their makeup. Manufacturers are working hard to find the right solutions, but there is a ways to go.
gb&d: What is the most important thing to consider when designing a health center?
Tedder: I focus on the patient experience. This entails so many aspects of the physical environment, the approach, ease of navigating the space, the overall aesthetic and brand, and amenities in addition to the care provided. Keeping all stakeholders involved in the design is critical and makes for a very well thought out facility.
gb&d: Do you have a favorite project you’ve been involved in? And if so, what stands out to you about that project?
Tedder: One of the most enjoyable projects I worked on was a new tower for St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a favorite in that I worked on the planning, design, furniture, and artwork holistically and was able to commission art specifically to support our concepts of design. It was an ideal collaboration of administrators, nursing, facilities, and patient advocates and community and was so fun to do. It was early in the concepts of designing for staff support as well as patients and we were able to really provide amenities for staff respite and recharging. It was a whole design, start to finish.
gb&d: What is the biggest learning curve with regard to designing truly healthy spaces?
Tedder: Healthy materials that also hold up to the high demands of cleanability while still providing a beautiful and comfortable aesthetic. It takes a lot of time and experience to understand what the cleaning products can do to materials. Not all staff use only products that are approved by facilities. Infection control is a huge topic of concern and liability, yet protocols are not always followed. Designers need to plan for the worst in selecting appropriate products and materials.
gb&d: How does approaching the design of a health care facility today differ from, say, 20 years ago?
Tedder: So much more connection to nature, so much more integration of natural light and views, the intersection of exterior and clinical spaces providing a much calmer and wellness oriented space as opposed to the old enclosed environments. The integration of active design both exterior and interior. All the research that has been done on the benefits of nature through evidence based design.
gb&d: How does incorporating green elements help patient recovery?
Tedder: Nature views, natural light, air, and space lift the spirit and help the body heal itself. The color palette of natural elements proves timeless and provides a sense of a calm and well designed space that promotes healing.
gb&d: What effect does exposure to natural spaces have on patients?
Tedder: Just the “feel good” aspects of being in natural environments lifts the spirits. There is a sense of empowerment that comes in a natural environment. You can get better or at least take a better approach to your medical situation.
gb&d: What about all of that artificial light in hospitals?
Tedder: I love the direction the industry has taken to use natural light as much as possible and, where not, provide lighting that is more indirect or provides the ability to control circadian rhythms.
gb&d: What are some concepts you wish everyone would implement in health care facilities?
Tedder: Keep focusing on beautiful, inspiring spaces. Just because there are clinical restrictions the environment does not need to be cold or utilitarian. Keep the appropriate focus on texture and patterns, color and contrast and keep palettes natural and timeless. I hate seeing overly colored environments or those with too much going on. Keep it calm and lovely and balanced.
gb&d: What’s one thing people don’t realize with regard to the design of health care facilities?
Tedder: How integral the design is to the daily experience for staff as well as patients and visitors. Good design resonates as just a lovely space, not overly gimmicked. Keep it easily navigated and simple.