It’s been said that health is one of life’s greatest gifts, so when a health clinic was recently revitalized in Houston’s historic Fifth Ward, there was no question about the value this project would bring to the area. The Legacy Health clinic is located in an area dubbed a “healthcare desert” by local media for its location in an underserved part of the community. The facility is part of the collaborative effort known as the “Fifth Ward Redevelopment.”
Already a familiar face in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Legacy was growing at a faster rate and needed a new, more expansive clinic.The LEED-certified project had to meet
sustainable guidelines and was creatively designed. Innovative design solutions were incorporated to save on cost and square footage, resulting in an aesthetically appealing new space for the community and a more modern, welcoming clinic. Designed by Kirksey Architecture, the new two-story clinic offers a full pharmacy, lab, OB/GYN and pediatrics unit, general primary care practice, dental, vision, behavioral health, and 19 exam rooms.
Inside, the approach to materials and finishes reflects the clinic’s surrounding community and population. For example, the lobby’s flooring pattern was inspired by a quilt and the woven “fabrics,” representing families in the community, are a part of the clinic’s foundation that influenced the design of the space.
“Part of the inspiration for the project was the immigrant community and all of the wonderful differences [found within] such a diverse [population]—that was driving the thought process where we asked, ‘How could that be expressed in this building?’” explained David Lynn McLemore, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP, executive vice president of Kirksey Architecture in Dallas. “When you look at the material palette, it’s not just earth tones or all-white, European Mod—what you would expect to see in some medical facilities because they want a place to look clean and bright. And while this is certainly clean and bright, we wanted it to symbolically reflect the community with the way the materials represent the diverse fabric or tapestry of their own neighborhoods.”
That theme is carried through to the outside as well, as expressed in the bold exterior wall mural. Houston artist Reginald Adams was commissioned to design the recognizable artwork, along with help from community members during “community art days” in which staff and residents pitched in to create mural components and put their own stamp on the project. The final product represents the coming together of the city, the clinic, and the residents.
The Legacy Community Health—Fifth Ward clinic is frequently the only option for high-quality healthcare to low-income patients. Regardless of their ability to pay, the clinic provides medical services as well as mental and behavioral assistance to those who need it the most. The impact this clinic has on Houston’s Fifth Ward is invaluable and plans to become a steadfast landmark for a growing community.
interiors+sources recently spoke with McLemore to learn more about the striking graphics used within this project and how they help tell the story of this inspiring project.
interiors+sources: How do the graphic elements help to enhance the overall design objectives and the mission of the clinic?
David Lynn McLemore: When you think of being underserved by healthcare, we refer to it as “healthcare coverage,” right? So all of these immigrants in the community—they’re not covered by healthcare. We wanted this building to signify that you can come here and through the new Affordable Care Act there are many more people who are eligible for healthcare now. If you look at the big, bold tree graphic that’s on the main feature wall, that is symbolic of Legacy with its deep roots because it’s been in the community for a very long time serving the underserved. And within its canopy and its branches reaching out, it is helping to cover the community, if you will.
i+s: Which products or materials were used to create the graphic elements in the interiors?
DLM: The large tree graphic is a vinyl wallcovering; it’s a custom, digitally printed graphic by Level Digital Wallcoverings. Joel [Kalmin, facilities design manager at Legacy], our client, worked with Level Digital Wallcoverings and he really took our color palette of the building and played with that, looking at different ways to utilize the colors within the graphic. It’s not cheap but digital wallcoverings [have] come down in cost from where they were at five years ago, so you can do a lot more with less money these days. I think that is so awesome because it has given us more opportunities [to be creative] as designers.
i+s: What was the thought process behind using such bold graphics throughout the facility?
DLM: One of the goals of the project was getting the public involved in this building. If you look at the exterior graphics, we have these wonderful murals of handprints
on the outside.
We were tasked with designing a backdrop, an exterior building material, and a building wall system that would be a suitable canvas for them to [create] semi-permanent art that can be changed out. We used a HardieBacker panel system—sheets of cement board that don’t rot and are very dimensionally stable that are really great for priming and painting or adhering. They go on with exposed fasteners so you can disassemble them in theory, depending upon how the mural is put together, and take it down and reassemble it at another site if you wanted and then in five years commission a new mural.
[Adams] held these art days where they got together kids and families and, tile by tile, assembled those pieces that are within the handprints. The community literally has made its handprint on the building; you can see their involvement. It’s so bold and bright, so that’s why we really worked on the building itself—there’s a lot going on with some of the brickwork on it but we wanted it to be kind of understated so that the community’s involvement would really stand out, loud and proud.
Photography by Joe Aker, Aker Imaging