FORMA Design, Inc. has specialized in healthcare design since 1994, when the architecture and interior design firm completed its first project for a dentist. Principal Andreas Charalambous says FORMA is popular with doctors and dentists because the firm approaches the design of the space as one element in a branding package that reflects the providers’ unique personalities. “We say to each client: ‘What makes you unique? Who are you as a person? As a doctor?’”
The architect’s line of inquiry has inspired a water-themed office for a scuba-loving dentist and an office for a female orthodontist that resembles a soothing spa, rather than a masculine, dark, wood-shrouded space. But rather than creating a caricature of a theme, Charalambous’ designs provide sophisticated takes on the chosen brand elements.
FORMA’s reputation for creating spaces infused with personality—and for being able to meld design with the latest healthcare equipment—is why Dr. Girish Banaji chose Washington,
D.C.–based Charalambous to design his new pediatric dental office in Falls Church, Virginia. The walls of many pediatric dental offices are crawling with Disney characters, but Banaji didn’t want his new office to look childish or immature. “I wanted it to be a space for parents and children as they grow,” he says. “Not just for three-year-olds, but for three-year-olds who will become fifteen-year-olds.”
Color defines zones for treatment and play
Charalambous set out to create a playground for all ages. “The space needs to make you feel good and address any stress by providing you with clues you’re in good hands,” he says. Since Banaji’s practice caters to three different age groups—infant to five, six to eleven, and teenagers—the design needed to make each group, as well as their parents, feel secure. The architect’s strategy for easing anxiety was to create a space kids would love.
First, Charalambous designed a spacious central sign-in and waiting area that acts as a hub for the 7,500-square-foot space. The welcoming entrance has three blue arcs, or “cocoons,” defining three recreational areas: a cafe and video game room, an area with lounge seating, and a glassed-in, multipurpose game room. The latter, hooked up with large screens and a Kinect gaming system, is large enough for a group of kids to play. The multipurpose game room’s glass doors fold away to become part of the larger reception area when the dentist hosts large gatherings, such as school field trips. The rubber-tiled floor has colorful blue inlays that form a three-dimensional puzzle.
Color-coded treatment areas for each age group rim the perimeter of the reception hub. The infant-to-five area is green, six-to-eleven is red, and the teenagers’ area is yellow. The cocoons frame these areas, and their soft, playful shapes are friendly and larger than life. The colors, inspired by Fisher-Price toys, are set against a clean white backdrop. Inside each color-coded area, patient bays are separated by sculptural, plaster screen walls to provide partial privacy without blocking light or views. Each bay has a television screen embedded in the ceiling that streams age-specific entertainment. The infant-to-five area has stroller parking with doors at both ends to prevent little ones from toddling too far. No matter where a patient stands within the practice, he or she can always see glimpses of other spaces to remain oriented.
Planning for prevention
Banaji’s must-haves included two computers at each patient bay. One is a business computer with patient education modules and a USB credit card scanner for parents to make payments chair-side, and the other is a clinical computer for viewing patient information and X-rays. Having dual computers proves an asset to the ultra-efficient practice. In Banaji’s former office, the staff was constantly vying for control of a single computer.
As for core branding elements, there are nods to the dentist’s Indian heritage—the abstracted bindi in the practice’s logo shows up in the shape of the reception area furniture. Banaji’s mission as a dentist centers on prevention, and that idea is expressed through the clean, uncluttered design and in multiple opportunities for patient education. By checking out chair-side, the dentist encourages parents to schedule their child’s next appointment right then and there. It is a testament to the success of the space that most of them do so.
Banaji Pediatric Dental Specialists
- Designer: FORMA Design, Inc.
- Client: Girish Banaji
- Where: Falls Church, Virginia
- What: 7,500 square feet on one floor
- Cost/sf: Withheld at client’s request
Key Design Highlights
- The playful design appeals to children, from infants to teenagers.
- A waiting area and cafe, flanked by areas for play, form the hub of the clinic.
- Open treatment bays are wrapped by curved plaster walls that are color-coded by age group.
- Technology—from video games for patients to computers for dental assistants—is seamlessly integrated.