by Sebastian Schmaling

Bayshore Dental was a very special project for us – it was the first dental clinic that we designed. Dr. Patel had seen our design work for other commercial and residential clients and believed that our aesthetics and sensibilities would align really well with the ambitious vision she had set for her dental office, so she hired us, despite the fact that we were novices in the field of dental office design.

“Why should a space in which a patient waits or undergoes treatments should feel any less welcoming or be any less tastefully furnished, than a private living room or a boutique or a restaurant.”  

We were looking for a design fundamentally different from what most dental offices in the United States look like and interested in developing an architecture that would truly offer an alternative to the uninspired environments that marks so much of American healthcare design. We asked ourselves why a space in which a patient waits or undergoes treatments should feel any less welcoming or be any less tastefully furnished, any less carefully composed, or any worse lit, than a private living room or a boutique or a restaurant. And we quickly determined that the strict healthcare codes requiring antiseptic, easily cleanable surfaces or regulations governing issues of patient privacy were by no means detrimental to creating an inviting and aesthetically ambitious interior environment.

Even though this was our first array into the design of a medical facility, the project was awarded with a 2017 National Healthcare Design Award from the American Institute of Architects, one of the highest recognitions for
healthcare-related architecture in the United States.

From the very beginning of the design process, we approached the planning of the clinic with two goals in mind: to facilitate efficient workflow patterns, and to create an environment that would make patients feel “at home.” The overall layout of patient rooms, laboratories, sanitary infrastructure, and staff offices was informed by optimized procedural strategies. As a result, the individual operatories were all grouped along one side of a centrally located corridor, with the supporting spaces such as sanitizing rooms, labs, and file rooms located on the other side of the corridor. The design of that central circulation spine required an extraordinary amount of attention. In order to avoid what could easily have become a claustrophobic, artificially lit “tunnel”, we allowed daylight from the floorto- ceiling windows of the operatories to filter into the corridor through large sliding glass doors, their translucent surfaces essentially working as backlit canvases within the space.

Patients visiting Bayshore Dental arrive at glazed entrance, a carefully framed threshold that leads into the light-filled waiting room featuring shades of white and grey with occasional accents of green, all calibrated to tie into the clinic’s overarching graphic identity. In a formally complementary gesture, the reception desk itself, a dark grey volume with a horizontal, backlit counter, transforms into a thin, continuous ceiling plane that lines the central circulation spine and guides patients from the waiting room to their assigned operatories. Each entry to an operatory is marked by green vertical panels and a corresponding sequence of thin lighting strips.
Together, they set up a rhythm of protruding, vertical lines that visually animate the corridor and create a clean but playful atmosphere that contributes to a positive patient experience.

Dr. Patel chose a combination of Dentsply Sirona treatment centers, built-in cabinets, and technical equipment that fit very well into our overall design concept – in fact, there really was a reciprocal relationship between the tasteful and minimal design of those pieces and the overall interior architecture that we were interested in, a sort of feed-back loop in which the final selection of the equipment, the paint colors and wall finishes in each room, and the design of the custom-designed and locally built cabinets all were fine-tuned until the very end to ensure that the entirety of the components would harmonize perfectly. When we designed the operatories, we thought of them not simply as sterile rooms for dental procedures but as little “galleries”, each featuring the treatment center in the center of the space as a sculptural piece of art instead of relegating them as mere technical tools.

As much as we were interested in creating an unapologetically contemporary, minimalist environment, we decided early on that it was important to temper the crisp lines and clean details of walls and ceiling planes with natural finishes and textures that could soften the clinic’s overall appearance. We carefully introduced white-oak elements throughout the clinic. Even the restrooms for patients and staff feature white-oak cabinets and green-lacquered surfaces that add a visual richness rarely found in health care facilities, all contributing to a deliberately quiet, serene ambience intended to appease a sometimes apprehensive clientele.