Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hospice - The Wright Stuff

On Sunday afternoon I attended the open house for the new Care Center of Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado.

The building was magnificently planned and executed, and is designed to integrate fully with the existing Hospice building (the restored Miller Homestead), the Fairmount Health Park next door, and the surrounding neighborhood and assisted living communities nearby.

The building's exterior, looking from the main entrance, is reminiscent of other buildings designed by architects from local firm Blythe Design. Looking from the front hardly does the site justice, however, as the facility is exquisitely integrated into its' surroundings, and possesses noteworthy interior design features as well.

The building joins several in the Grand Valley to incorporate many design features directly attributable to Frank Lloyd Wright. Others include the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Credit Union of Colorado on Main Street, and the St. Joseph Rectory on White Avenue, all pictured below.

In contrast to the above buildings, the bulk of Wright's influence on the Hospice facility is on the interior. The main lobby, pictured here on the left, is modeled after the interiors of several Wright houses of the Prairie period, such as the interior of the Robie House in Chicago, pictured below.

The Wright-themed interior design continues with the lovely
stained glass windows that adorn the main lobby. These windows appear to incorporate several examples of Wright's prolific work in stained glass during the late 19th and early 20th century, which was second only in output and popularity to that of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Similar patterns also appear as wall treatments, inlaid into the hardwood flooring in many parts of the building, as well as in the tile work of the patient bathrooms.

The patient rooms show thoughtfulness not only in design
esthetics, but in functionality as well. The larger rooms have a sofa bed and recliner, and the french doors to the balcony are large enough to accommodate the patient's bed if desired.

Many light fixtures and lamps are all Wright-influenced, if not reproductions of his designs.

The Reflection Room, which serves double duty as a meditation room and small chapel, is one of many rooms in the facility furnished with pieces of the Mission or Arts and Crafts styles.

Outside again, the south and west side of the building is two stories, with a lower level that houses administrative offices, conference rooms, and a full-service restaurant that, when open, will serve the general public seven days a week.

An inviting plaza with a small fountain connects the Care Center to the Miller Homestead and small pond that fronts North 12th Street. The statue pictured here is adjacent the pond, and is a replica of a design called a 'Sprite' that Wright initially used at Chicago's Midway Gardens, an open-air beer garden and social gathering space that was built in 1914 and demolished in 1929. Some of the original Sprites were saved from the demolition, and now reside at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

I spoke with Christy Whitney, Hospice President and CEO, and asked her where the emphasis on Wright came from as a motif for many Hospice operations. The Heirlooms For Hospice store in downtown Grand Junction displays at least two full-size Wright stained glass reproductions, and Hospice makes wide use of the Eaglefeather typeface adapted from a 1922 Wright design.

Ms. Whitney stated that the affinity for Wright is hers. She grew up in a suburb of Chicago, home to the largest concentration of Wright buildings in the world. Ms. Whitney added that Wright's design ideas for his single family residences seem to adapt well to the group care setting. After witnessing the execution of that opinion in the form of this newest addition to the Grand Valley's continuum of end-of-life care, I'm inclined to agree.

Still, I feel compelled to be cautious about the future. Hospice has positioned itself well in generating revenue through conventional means, including philanthropy, and also through more creative ventures such as the Heirlooms stores, a coffee shop, and now the restaurant.

The potential for Hospice is great, but is dependent upon far more than the edification of their mission through this beautiful new facility. Effective management strategies to optimize operating processes and recruit, train, and retain dedicated and compassionate personnel are a constant challenge with any organization, but more so with non-profits.

If anyone needs a reminder of what the other side of the coin looks like, you need look no further than the experience of Colorado West Mental Health since they moved into a new facility. It's a lesson that others in the Grand Valley seeking to expand their physical infrastructure may want to remain mindful of.

A sidewalk leads from the Miller pond, past the south side of the new building, connects with the Hermosa Ave. neighborhood, then continues around to the east toward the parking area and the Fountains assisted living complex.

Lining this sidewalk are numerous bricks with tributes to patients and friends of Hospice, including someone who I think would have been very comfortable here in her last days.

Get over when you can to see what's happening. Count
your blessings, and enjoy the rest of your week.

Photo Credits: about.com (Robie House Interior)

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