March 6, 2014
by Amy Gilkey

A recently completed project in Davie County, NC presented our team with the challenging opportunity to design an ambulatory care building (Plaza-2) and medical office building (Plaza-1) on a site with a federally protected wetland area. The project’s guiding design concept was “Weaving together the people, place, and purpose”.  This was integrated early in the conceptual design process as the team studied how the buildings responded to the site. The wetlands essentially ran through the center of the plot of land, which naturally poised the question of how to orient the building in relation to the protected area.  Rather than turning our backs on this section of unusable site, the project team fully embraced the wetlands as a “project jewel” and celebrated it by making it a key feature and “weaving” the building around it.  This area became known as the “wetland garden” as it was supplemented with native plant species including trees and flowering shrubbery designed to attract local birds, insects and wildlife.  All of this played a key role in supporting the indigenous ecosystem of the project site, as well as providing a positive distraction for patients, family and staff.1_site

Early site renderings showing the building “weaving” around the protected wetland area

The team wanted people to experience the wetland garden in a variety of ways, so they focused on creating views and instituting a network of walking paths.  To establish the visual connection, the building was designed with fully expansive views by using large extents of glass curtain wall in building spaces that overlooked the area.  This included the two-story atrium lobby that housed the main reception, registration stations, café dining, and family waiting areas.  Unrestrictive views were also present in the main entrance lobby and connector, which spans between the larger building forms.  To promote individuals to move beyond simply viewing the garden, a dining terrace off the atrium lobby was created where people could eat and socialize in the natural setting. Additionally, a public staircase led from the terrace down to landscaped pedestrian pathways to further integrate people into the garden.

 2_garden rendering

Rendering showing wetland garden concept including supplemental plantings, walking paths, and dining terrace. The water feature at terraced planters was an early concept but did not get built.

 3_garden photo

Final photography of building overlooking wetland garden and walking paths.

To complement the natural views, the design team chose timeless materials with an organic feel. Color inspiration from the natural environment guided intentional use of warm, rich materials as found in a variety of wood tones, stone, terrazzo flooring and colored, patterned glass. The team incorporated an accent wall in the main lobby with large-scale imagery of dogwood tree blossoms, which relate to the local flora. The design and material selection of the interior spaces incorporate the healing power of nature, with a gentle nod to the wetland garden that gave birth to our project concept.

5_main lobby

6_dogwood cafe