[With Video] A hometown girl helps redesign hospital where she was born
June 26, 2018
June 26, 2018
At Brockville General Hospital, architectural designer discovers the importance of involving her community in their project
I hold all my projects close to my heart, but my work on Brockville General Hospital is the most special. Brockville, Ontario, is my hometown. I lived there for 10 years as a child, before moving to Calgary, Alberta. Brockville’s hospital means so much to me because I was born there. Two of my aunts have worked in the complex care and rehabilitation department at that hospital. Today, my cousin works there.
Brockville General Hospital is in my blood.
When I began my career as an architectural designer, I wanted to do something that helped people. So, working on a project in the healthcare sector was the ideal move. That way, I could create and design while also giving back to the patients, families, and staff that require the space.
At Brockville General Hospital, we are currently working on a new in-patient tower that merges three sites into one. We’re moving the mental health department from the hospital’s Elmgrove site, and the complex continuous care, palliative care, and rehabilitation section from the Garden Street site, and bringing them to the Charlie Street site. I’m helping to design patient bedrooms for the hospital, and the project is due to be completed by 2020.
Naturally, we needed the staff community to feel confident in what was designed on paper, a design that would fulfill their needs while providing comfort to the patients and families.
Our Toronto-based team decided to create plywood mock-up rooms in a warehouse, to give people a sense of what the patient rooms would look like. We set up typical bedrooms for mental health patients, bariatric patients, and rehab and complex continuous care patients rooms. We also arranged typical communication, or nursing, stations. We selected the warehouse because it gave us enough space for the required hospital staff to review the rooms.
The bedrooms are duplicated many times within the hospital design, and they’re one of the most important rooms in the facility. So, we wanted all key users—nursing staff, doctors, infection control, housekeeping, facility, and IT workers—to review and approve of the design.
We needed to ensure that the clearances, heights, flows, and function of the rooms were correct. Working and talking with staff members, to understand how they would use the space, felt so inspiring and fulfilling.
At one point, we invited my aunt to look at the plywood mock-ups, so she could give us her opinion of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supply storage area. Another one of my aunts was a part of the user group reviewing the communication station. It felt great to be able to give back to my family, as well as the community.
In the end, we were able to show hospital staff that their needs and requirements were heard and understood.
I rediscovered the beauty in my roots.
The hospital wanted to engage the community. So, at the outset, I knew we needed to do that while working on the hospital. It could help to eliminate “the unknown” for community members, while raising funds for the hospital at the same time.
We ended up building a full replica of a patient bedroom in a local shopping mall, the 1000 Islands Mall. Involving the Brockville community allowed us to test out drawings and specifications, while correcting potential problems in the details of the room.
I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with the community on this process. Even if a designer isn’t working in their hometown, it’s still beneficial to involve community members in the design process, and to understand their connections to a place like a hospital.
As designers, we research and immerse ourselves in communities, so we can understand their specific needs and apply familiar community elements—such as wood and stone—into our building designs. For example, we looked at the rhythm of the dock, and considered how we could use that within the celling patterns. We also incorporated the motif of the trees within the graphic on the interior glazing. This brings comfort to the people that use those buildings daily.
Even though I’m a hometown girl, I was still able to learn new things about Brockville through this engagement process. I rediscovered the beauty in my roots, and the people that surround them. And for that, I’m extremely thankful.