by Shiona Green, BA BID PIDIM IDC
Professional Interior Designer
The Dean’s Office at the McDermot Campus, University of Manitoba, is the administrative home for staff who support the ongoing education of medical students, residents, qualified specialists and researchers in the Faculty of Medicine. The initial scope of the project was to add 10 to 12 workstations to the existing office. Quite early in the process, however, the client felt it prudent to abandon this plan and expanded ft3’s role to assist them on a discovery and evaluation of their McDermot campus. Rather than add more workstations to an already crowded office and maintain the status quo, they decided to evaluate the culture and the brand that this office portrayed.
Projecting an image as a contemporary force in the field of medicine is vital in attracting the young bright stars of academia as well as the funding dollars that enable education resources and research. Supporting staff in their work arguably means providing an office environment that builds collaboration and creates tangible energy. Beyond this, being true to the concept naturally meant the design must work aesthetically, ergonomically, and restoratively.
First examinations and site tours revealed a traditional style of working enabled by the physical layout and the style of office furniture. Individual cubicles with high panels were situated in the middle of the office with conference rooms and offices situated on the limited exterior windows. A small underutilized kitchen, also at the window, kept daylight from penetrating into the main space. The colour palette was conservative, utilizing dark wood and off-white carpet that was suggestive of luxury, restraint, and limited approachability.
The main goal of the renovation was to discourage silo work (where workers work detached visually from other team members) by lowering or eliminating panels and by providing options for different ways and places to work in order to increase collaboration, both planned and accidental. The prized exterior façade was reclaimed as a combined open work and refreshment-touchdown area. Daylight now filled the opened up office because the panels no longer restricted it to a few.
The Faculty of Medicine worked with ft3 to communicate and brand their new office to their staff. Our methodology:
- Conducted workshops with the departments to learn how they work and what they need to be successful in that work and to learn how they wanted to interact with the students and other departments. Workshops included hands on work sessions with staff who were empowered to plan their work space using scaled cutouts of office furniture.
- Conducted online surveys to uncover individual workstyles, requirements, and challenges.
- Conducted one-on-one interviews with department leads to confirm accuracy of staff information and to see if staff and management’s views were similar.
- Synthesized and analyzed information and reported back to the group with findings in an open forum to gather further feedback and highlight areas of concern or items overlooked.
- Followed up with the Dean after the group presentation who provided direction to ft3 on the final design.
- Provided three floor plan options for discussion and evaluation.
- Evaluated workstations and the size of work areas based on function of work rather than seniority or title and utilized the floor area more effectively.
- Worked with original furniture supplier to salvage, adapt, and retrofit existing furniture to accommodate the new vision without totally discarding assets.
- Further developed the selected floor plan.
- Reduced the number and size of closed offices.
- Refreshed the colour palette to enhance daylight and to further reflect it into the interior.
- Provided unassigned furniture groupings to offer alternate touch down work spaces.
Construction was completed in 16 weeks. The construction schedule was dictated by the academic school calendar to take advantage of quieter summer months.
The face of the Faculty of Medicine is now a more transparent one. Visually the interior is brighter, and allows daylight for all. Options are available for staff to work away from their desks or close to the windows. The office presents as a busy and accessible one because staff are now visible. Acoustics remain a challenge for those who need heads down work when private break out rooms are not available.
A post occupancy survey to gather long-term satisfaction of this project indicated major project goals were met. The faculty now presents a more transparent, welcoming façade. But the open collaborative model of working did not satisfy those who, by the nature of their work, work singularly. In these cases, ancillary spaces (private and with closed doors) need to be provided. In an open office, the culture of the office should be the determining factor as to how many of these spaces are provided, whether they are assigned on a permanent or temporary basis, and if secondary open workstations are also provided for these staff members to encourage them for some part of their day to engage with the rest of the office.
Generally staff horizons have expanded beyond the individual groups’ focus; many view their role as team members of the faculty at large, working together toward the successful development of doctors.
Shiona Green, IDA PIDIM IDC
Interior Designer / Corporate Lead
A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Architecture, Department of Interior Design, Shiona's portfolio exhibits a commitment to commercial-focused projects as well as an emphasis on space planning, change management and facilities management, enabling Shiona to pursue and research the link between facility management and corporate strategies to investigate long- term planning from a real-estate/business perspective, including asset management and life-cycle costing.
ft3 Architecture Landscape Interior Design provides full architectural, landscape and interior design services for health and wellness, complex multi-family housing, and corporate office environments throughout western Canada.