FSU architecture and interior design instructor revamps local homeless shelter amid COVID-19 crisis
UPDATE: The Kearney Center has now moved all of its customers from their Municipal Way facility on the west side of Tallahassee to “non-collective” accommodation like hotels and apartments to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among them.
How can interior design support human health? The links between human well-being and the buildings and rooms that people occupy are beginning to be better appreciated and understood. Perhaps nothing sheds light on this relationship better than the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Kearney Center, a homeless shelter that serves more than 350 people each night in Tallahassee, turned to the interior architecture and design department at Florida State University for its expertise in this area.
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, Kearney Center COO Jacob Reiter called for help with an urgent need – redesigning the shelter to comply with the Centers for social distancing guidelines Disease Control and Prevention. The new directive called for beds in group rooms to be placed six feet apart to reduce transmission of the virus.
Assistant instructor Elena Bradbury, also an architect at DAG Architects, Inc., rose to the challenge by quickly generating floor plan options to alter the room layout, respecting sightlines and means required to exit. of the building in complete safety.
Bradbury’s efforts have given Kearney Center staff a better understanding of how to follow necessary directions and seek help moving residents to other facilities as the center reduces its number of available beds.
âPart of an architect’s job is to solve space problems and it was natural to help the Kearney Center at this critical time when everyone has to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing situation,â Bradbury said. âI hope that the measures informed by the provisions provided will help mitigate the spread of infection – the important task in which we are all involved. “
Jill Pable, professor and chair of FSU’s interior architecture and design department, which specializes in creating environments for people recovering from homelessness, said it was a prime example of the importance of design for human health.
âPeople in crisis and traumatized such as homelessness are often already struggling with health issues, including hypertension, asthma, hepatitis, heart disease and diabetes,â said Pable.
These problems, coupled with the lack of health care while living on the streets, often make the homeless population more vulnerable to infections than others.
âNot having a place to rest in a clean environment makes it worse,â Pable said. “Reducing infections not only helps a person, but also better protects those around them from infection.”
The Kearney Center and shelters like it offer services that can be a first step towards getting out of homelessness. Physical health is a necessary part of this transition, now made more possible through the inclusion of thoughtful design.
The Department of Interior Architecture and Design prepares students to use design to improve human well-being in many types of projects, including hotels, hospitals, workplaces, retail stores and schools. For more information, visit interiordesign.fsu.edu.
For more information on the Kearney Center, or to donate to the Centre’s COVID-19 Fund, visit www.kearneycenter.org/donate.