In designing the 136,000-square-foot (12,600-square-meter), $38.8 million project, a primary consideration was color. Many pediatric health care facilities are festooned in bright, primary colors, but at the M.I.N.D. Institute, they are warm and muted.
Blanski explains: "We had an expert interior colorist join our team, who happens to be the mother of an autistic boy. She'd been doing some first-hand research in his bedroom about what colors were soothing and what weren't. And it's amazing. The place just has this quiet peace about it. We've actually gotten almost spiritual or religious comments back about the calming sense of space at the M.I.N.D. Institute."
Founded by a group of parents with autistic children, the institute is intended to be a place for multidisciplinary collaboration. The first phase of construction was completed in the summer of 2003. "I think the latest count I heard is 17 distinctly different medical specialties are colocating at the institute," Blanski says. "There's pediatric neurology, pediatric psychology, everything. They're all doing work together to find a cure."
HGA's task, therefore, was to create a place where practitioners each had their own environment in which to study the disease and serve patients, but also where they would be encouraged by the architecture to engage in dialogues that could lead to synergy of purpose and results.
The first phase of construction includes a resource center, outpatient clinic, academic office building, and a wet research laboratory. The challenge was to lay out these spaces in a way that would promote collaboration.
At first, the architects tried to put everyone in one building. But after a series of charettes with parents and medical professionals, they instead crafted a series of smaller buildings that would serve as a campus within the larger UC Davis Medical Center campus.
The architectural program called for clinics, research rooms, a library and many offices. Locating these spaces in a series of smaller buildings helped tie together the different functions. HGA's Bill O'Malley, principal in charge for the project, says: "The site is really nondescript. The whole idea was to focus the building inward on a series of courtyards rather than one building."
With medical professionals of varying disciplines segregated into a series of small buildings, the social-engineering goal of creating informal meeting places where colleagues could discuss their work together became more challenging. The solution? Coffee.
One of the parents came up with the idea of creating a "necessary nuisance," something crucial that you have to go out of your way to get. Consequently, the architects provided for only one place in the M.I.N.D. Institute where staff can find coffee: in a cafe on a roof terrace that overlooks one of the courtyards.
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