Design Decisions: Hitting the right notes

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Music and art figure prominently in the new Signature HealthCARE of Nashville facility.
Music and art figure prominently in the new Signature HealthCARE of Nashville facility.

Signature HealthCARE wanted to be a good neighbor with its new Nashville facility, the first major building project in the company's history.

After clearing the site of three buildings, 30% of a fourth was used in the construction. New wings were connected to the facility, which uses some of the old exterior facade and meshes nicely with its neighbors in a residential area adjacent to commercial buildings and the nearby Vanderbilt University campus.

Signature worked through some issues that often pop up with construction of this type, which included navigating two sets of building codes (the City of Nashville uses the International Building Code and the health department uses the Standard Building Code). After getting clearance for a therapy pool through the Nashville building department and the state health department, Signature found it still needed to go through the city health department before it could be approved.

The configuration of the building, sitting on a 3.7-acre, L-shaped lot with a slope, also required a little finesse. But problems with the setback in one area and parking that's slightly smaller than what the code calls for did not pose impassable hurdles, leaders pointed out.

“If the planning commission understands you're giving them an honest building for the neighborhood — and given the use of the building, it's something that serves the neighborhood well — I think they're willing to work with you,” said Signature HealthCARE corporate architect Tony Waldron. 

As a tribute to the Nashville area, Waldron used the present and a part of his past to create a unique aspect of the facility — an amphitheater.

“I had a house for many years that had a nursing home behind it. They often had concerts for the residents and I was a (beneficiary) of that,” he said. “I always thought that was a neat thing. So that was something that I tried to give back to the neighborhood. A concert in the grass — that could be something that the neighbors could also enjoy.”

In fact, a summer music series featuring local artists is planned.

The building's cafe looks out into the amphitheater. The grassy area is sloped and large enough to accommodate the residents. 

Another specialty is the decor.

“All of the artwork was specifically selected as it relates to the wellness of our residents and their Nashville culture,” said Karen Veith, the director of interior design. “There are many historical preservation sites and landmarks that the residents can easily identify, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and the Parthenon replica in Centennial Park among them. Most residents can remember having picnics on the beautiful grounds of this well-known park. The healing power of music is also represented throughout the center, using various forms of musical instruments.”

Other distinctive areas include triangular courtyards. One may even be used as an area for visitors' children, officials said. There are also guest sitting areas in resident rooms, bedside hydration, in-room soiled linen bins and an entire wall made of glass to allow maximum natural light, Waldron said.

Lessons learned

A facility that is skillfully blended into the area may ease other sticky issues.

A public-shared amenity can solidify public relations and elevate positive brand recognition.

You should prepare for all local building codes but still expect surprises.


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