I have been designing dental offices for over four decades. The first question many of my clients ask me is how I ever found this apparently narrow specialty? Actually the specialty found me because my dad owned a small dental equipment company. The next question inevitably is how am I able to sustain my interest in such a narrow area of my design profession?
Despite my initial expectations to the contrary I find that my interest in dental office design has grown over the years as my skills have matured. I attribute this to the following factors:
1. Each client is unique in the aspirations and emphasis that they bring to their project. Their personality, their individual preferences, their professional experience, their philosophy of practice, their specialty and their life goals all play a part in the mix that will be expressed as ‘their’ office.
2. Each space or building site has its own unique characteristics that can be utilized to their maximum potential to reinforce my client’s aspirations. For example these may include the shape of the space or site, available views, solar orientation, structural impediments, available ceiling height, etc.
3. There is also the evolution and maturation within the dental profession. For instance it was not too many years ago that the dental sterilizer was an oven-like device that occupied a corner of the dental lab. Today’s sophisticated sterilizing devices occupy center stage in their own centrally located sterilization room, often many times the area of the lab. Similarly, digital technology has played a transformative role in the new dental office suite from x-ray radiography, e-models, paperless offices and patient entertainment.
All of the above and more are enough to keep this work interesting for me. However, in my own mind, the most important factor in keeping this work alive for me is my practice of approaching each new project with what some call ‘beginners mind’. Having designed hundreds of individual offices of all types it is vital for me to approach each new project as if I have never designed a dental suite before. Like a creative chef, I endeavor to empty my mind of preconceived notions and discover fresh ways of combining the available ‘ingredients’ to come up with the perfect dish.