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USM Interior Design Seniors Outline Healthcare Facilities for Capstone Project: Healing Through the Arts

Tue, 05/14/2024 - 08:42am | By: Ivonne Kawas

Seniors in the Interior Design program at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) designed healthcare facilities for a capstone project, using the historic Eureka High School in downtown Hattiesburg as a location to solve a design challenge: preserving a historical building while creating a therapeutic environment through various forms of art.

“Interior design has grown into a profession that is highly recognized for creating intentional environments,” said Alvis Lawson Jr., assistant teaching professor of Interior Design and program coordinator. “By setting the limitations of the capstone project to creating a care facility for patients dealing with a certain health issue while harnessing the power of art, our students were able to focus their research and design. To add an extra layer, each student’s work was located at the historic Eureka High School.”

Lawson highlights that there is an immense amount of research available on how physical environments impact healing with the aid of interior design. In this course, the students used the book “Your Brain on Art,” written by founder of the International Arts and Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Susan Magsamen and Google designer Ivy Ross, as a guide to tackle the design prompt based on evidence.

Interior Design

Abbie Dupre

Abbie Dupre, a native of Covington, La., created a concept facility called “Brushstrokes of Hope,” a Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) art therapy clinic aiming to facilitate healing and emotional well-being for American Veterans. (View Capstone Flipbook)

Her designs blended history and architecture, honoring American Veterans with a red and blue color scheme and natural elements. By using biophilic design and curated lighting, Dupre created a calming environment, aiding in mental health recovery and PTSD treatment. The facility offers diverse art rooms for self-expression, empowering individuals within its transformative setting.

Brushstrokes Hope

“The design of the historic Eureka High School embodies a blend of historical preservation and modern functionality, creating a space that honors the past while serving as a sanctuary for healing and therapy,” said Dupre. “The design elements selected for my concept reflect the school’s rich heritage, offering an innovative approach to therapy that not only celebrates resilience and transformation in Veterans with PTSD, but stays true to the essence of Eureka.”

Dupre provided insights into the creative and research process: “Due to the sensitive nature of PTSD, it was crucial to conduct thorough research to ensure that the clinic would provide a safe and supportive environment for American Veterans. This process was both informative and eye-opening, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of PTSD and the potential benefits of art therapy.

“This project allowed me to hone into my problem-solving skills, pushing myself out of my comfort zone,” said Dupre. “I was able to learn more about human centered and evidence-based design, while gaining valuable experience in hospitality design and historical preservation. Moving forward, I plan to take all that I have learned at Southern Miss and allow it to give me a newfound confidence in my work.”

Interior Design

Alexis D'Anjou

Alexis D'Anjou, a native of Byram, Miss., created a concept facility called “Alzheimer’s Arcadia,” a sanctuary where individuals with Alzheimer's disease and various forms of dementia find solace, stimulation, and healing. (View Capstone Flipbook)

Each space within the facility was meticulously crafted by D'Anjou to address the specific needs and challenges faced by individuals living with Alzheimer’s. The facility offers sensory rooms that support healing in the main parts of the brain and body that the disease acts against.

Alzheimer Arcadia

D'Anjou's favorite spaces were the gallery lounge and the biophilic center. The gallery lounge doubles as a library and art gallery, with comfortable seating and a rotating display of digital artworks. The biophilic center, full of natural light and earthy tones, fosters a connection with nature with its unique design elements and features such as garlands, gardenias, and bird-inspired light fixtures.

D'Anjou highlights that she gathered valuable insights from experts on Alzheimer’s prior to designing the facility, including Dr. Mark Huff, associate professor in USM’s School of Psychology, and Victoria Farmer, life enrichment area director at Claiborne Senior Living.

“The insights provided by the experts were crucial for designing the spaces in the facility tailored to Alzheimer's patients,” said D'Anjou. “It helped me redefine standard caregiving by immersing residents in a curated environment that fosters therapeutic experiences through diverse artistic expressions.”

D'Anjou added: “I'm eager to apply the skills I learned at Southern Miss in my post-graduation endeavors. Whether working on commercial or residential projects, I'll continue to leverage these skills to their fullest.”