Students design healing center concept in marathon charrette

Texas A&M graduate architecture students impressed a design jury at a 2011 Nashville healthcare design conference with their concept to convert an antiquated public health facility to a holistic healing center for “everyday athletes.”

The students presented their adaptive reuse concept, developed at the conference during a 48-hour marathon charrette, on Nov. 15 to an audience of more than 200 design professionals, educators and students at the [Healthcare Design Conference] ( , an annual gathering that drew more than 4,100 participants.

In the charrette, students were presented with a design problem involving adaptive reuse of the Lentz Public Health Center, which houses a clinic and the administration of Nashville’s health department.

“The center was built in 1958, expanded in 1978 and has never been renovated to meet modern needs of providing public health service,” said Adeleh Nejati, a Ph.D. architecture student who was one of five students chosen by Texas A&M’s Center for [Health Systems & Design] ( to participate in the charrette.

Working with Nejati on the Texas A&M charrette team were four Master of Architecture students, Lu Gan, Lance Kubiak, Luis Martinez and Akshay Sangolli.

“We had 48 hours to work and submit our final boards for presentation,” said Nejati. “Some of us were always working on the project during the entire 48 hours. While some of us slept, others worked and vice versa.”

The team’s solution, Martinez said, used a broad definition of the term “athlete” and “specialty” in the context of community health and development.

“An athlete is usually identified as someone super fit, with almost movie star looks and status. We opted to define the athlete as anyone who is trying to get off couch, making small goals to get better. Athletes are ‘you and me,’ — anyone can be an athlete,” he said.

The charrette team also resolved that there are enough specialty health care facilities, and that the “specialty” concept that separates people.

“We wanted to go against this mindset and create something different that incorporated everyone and not just a select group of people,” said Martinez. “Our specialty became ‘everyone in the community’”.

The Texas A&M team’s design solution, he said, brought health services to the level of the individual, inviting everyone to take the challenge of pursuing a healthier lifestyle through treatment areas with varying care levels to treat people physically and with plenty of green spaces to lift their mental states.

The students’ design provided an urgent care area, examination and treatment rooms, but also included group exercise and fitness rooms, a dance studio, a rock climbing wall, a spa and pool and even a farmers market and a library.

The concept incorporated sustainable features such as “green” building materials, renewable energy sources and “passive” strategies, such as an emphasis on maximizing daylight in the facility.

The effort was more a collaboration between team members than a designated division of work, said Martinez.

“There was no real separation,” he said. “We all jumped in and helped each other.”

Nejati said design professionals who offered a critique of their proposals liked the Aggie group’s hand-drawn presentation and how it could be integrated with a digitized method of presenting architectural concepts.

“They liked the emphasis of our design, but they wanted to see more of the concept in the design documents, especially the facility’s indoor-outdoor connections,” said Nejati.

posted April 3, 2012