Question: How does your approach to healthcare reflect your experience in hospitality?
Michael: Hospitality is defined as showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. These concepts should always be inherent in healthcare service, however, the physical settings where these services are delivered more often than not are severely clinical in look and feel. They can be cold and austere, filled with hard surfaces and lacking in natural materials and finishes.
Our approach is simply to design the guest and patient areas as though we are designing a hotel. We start by storyboarding the patient/visitor experience, establish a narrative path, develop design touch-points. We apply the tenets of hotel design: welcoming, warmth, comfort, texture, richness, use of natural materials, and meaningful details. In addition, lighting design is crucial to creating balance, contrast and harmony.
Question: Are clients or patients driving the demand for more comfortable or soothing healthcare spaces?
Michael: One of the upsides of America's health insurance system is that it has given patients the opportunity to choose their clinic, hospital, and doctor. This ability to choose has forced healthcare providers to give better service in better environments in order to stay competitive and maintain their market share. Clients know they have to change their thinking and approach in order to remain relevant, especially in areas where there are many options.
Question: Is there one type of healthcare facility that is raising the bar for healthcare design?
Michael: Unlike all other areas of healthcare, the delivery of a baby is a welcome, wonderful, and amazing event. Women carefully choose the hospital for their delivery. Therefore, Obstetrics has been at the forefront of pushing design to provide residential or hospitality-styled patient rooms that appeal to our notions of comfort. There are some really amazing Obstetrics facilities these days.
Additionally, Pediatrics has always been "outside the box" in thinking about the type of clinical environment children, and their families, best respond to.
Question: Describe your vision of the future of healthcare design.
Michael: Providing the same experience as a guest would find in a luxury spa resort.
Question: Have you completed any progressive or unusual healthcare spaces that speak to these ideas?
Michael: We recently finished offices, including clinical spaces and a surgical suite, for a pair of Manhattan surgeons. Our design was based upon traditional Japanese notions of hospitality and intended to be soothing, calming, and relaxed. We used natural travertine, walnut, hand-rubbed plaster, onyx, and beech and the furnishings were all custom-made by the same vendors we use for many of our hotel projects.
Question: Tell us something unusual about yourself.
Michael: My mom was a recovery room nurse. I remember my brother and I both had our tonsils removed at the same time at the hospital where she worked. We shared an in-patient room and my mom insisted on having a family dinner with us, our little brother, and my dad in the patient room every night!