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Health + Wellbeing + Design

08/01/2016 11:10:25

Ever worked in a badly lit office with yellowing ceiling panels, dull carpet tiles and terrible acoustics? The bet is you didn’t stay late at work a minute longer than you had to. Had the misfortune to have to sit in a cold, hard, waiting room in a hospital, listening to the echo’s of shoes scuttling along endless corridors? Nothing comforting there.

Whether a hospital, spa, office or home; the choice of materials used throughout a building or renovation project can determine its success. Surface materials have a huge impact on the sustainability, efficiency and of course on the aesthetics of any project.

The design of environments has an influence on a whole host of issues such as staff retention, productivity and placement in the market, as well as mental and physical wellbeing.

One of the most striking examples of this is in healthcare. The design of healthcare facilities is without doubt one of the most crucial jobs in the architectural and interiors world. The choice of materials and lighting is paramount to the functionality of the building.

Maggie’s Centres are a perfect example of a new approach to design. The clinical model is left behind in the hospital and each centre offers a warm, welcoming home-from-home experience.

Laura Lee, Maggie’s Chief Executive, explains the importance of surface materials in design: “Great design and architecture are vital to the care Maggie’s offers as evidence shows that an uplifting environment can reduce stress and anxiety.  Maggie’s has a network of 18 Maggie’s Centres, across the UK, online and abroad, all designed by leading architects to feel more like a home than a hospital, with no reception desk, no signs on the wall, no name badges and with a big kitchen table at their heart.  This unique approach supports the informal relationships between Maggie’s staff and the people who visit the Centres, creating places where people affected by cancer can draw on strengths they may not have realised they had in order to maximise their own capacity to cope.”

Image courtesy of Maggie’s Centres

The use of surfaces at Maggie’s Centre are all carefully considered to encourage an atmosphere of warmth and calmness within a building that has been designed to inspire.

Max Fraser, Editor of the London Design Guide and Deputy Director of the London Design Festival, has first hand experience of the power of good design:

After a very personal, emotional journey as I supported my mother through her six-year battle with cancer, I vowed to contribute in some way to mankind’s fight against the disease. Maggie’s recognises that building an atmosphere of calm and celebrating a good quality of life are immensely beneficial to patients and I know that my mother would have benefited so positively from its services.”

Surface Design Show (9-11 February) is the only event in the UK that focuses solely on interior and exterior surfaces and materials. Returning to London’s Business Design Centre, one of the focuses for 2016 will be Health + Wellbeing (media partner Healthcare Design & Management Magazine). With this in mind the organisers have adopted Maggie’s, the famed cancer support charity, as this year’s chosen Charity Partner. Surface Design Show will be helping to raise funds for the new Maggie’s Centre in the grounds of St Barts, London.

Maggie’s Centre St Barts. Image courtesy Maggie’s Centres

Further centres are planned across the country, including a Heatherwick Studio designed building in Yorkshire and a Foster & Partners building in Manchester.

One of the main features at Surface Design Show is Surface Spotlight Live, a tactile display that this year will focus on surfaces for Health + Wellbeing. Explained by Lighting expert and former Director of Lighting at Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling, David McNair:

“Almost everything we see is by light reflected from a surface. The eye is important but it is the brain that constructs the images, so there are many layers of complexity to how we perceive the world around us. Many surfaces have the potential to cause a level of confusion and of course this will be more pronounced in a person with dementia.

For example, speckled surfaces can turn a person with dementia into a perpetual cleaner; carpets with certain contrasts and patterns can be the cause of trips and difficulties in orientation. Another major danger area is the presentation of food, even a simple glass of water on a white table cloth is likely to cause confusion to many with dementia, so the right contrast in plates and tablecloths is essential.

With recognition of the pitfalls and issues, architects and designers can seek to avoid them in order to improve quality of life and reduce risk within health environments.”

David McNair will be speaking on the subject of Lighting for Dementia at Light School, a forum for discussions on lighting in design, hosted within Surface Design Show. The show will host several talks on the subject of design in Health + Wellbeing from speakers including Diana Celella, David McNair and Don McIntyre.

It's so easy to donate to Maggie's Centres. Just text MAGG10 followed by the amount you would like to donate to 70070 (e.g. MAGG10 £5)

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