Parkin Blog

Designing for Common Areas

The public spaces of a hospital set the tone for the experience that patients and staff will have while there. Signs saying “Stop. Wash your hands, put on a mask, etc.” while necessary, do not convey an image of welcome, warmth or acceptance and should not be the first experience.

The Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (OTMH) staff were determined that their new hospital would be a very different experience for the people of Oakville and they worked very closely with the architects and designers to convey their vision of what a hospital experience should be, starting at the front door and at every step along the way.

During the design of OTMH, the designers worked closely with the Redevelopment Team and the Interior Design Committee to explore other kinds of facilities and hospitals in other locations to determine what the new hospital experience should be. There are also a number of other considerations that the designers factored into the creation of the public spaces. During the design of OTMH, these included:

  • Establishing a consistent identity for the hospital
  • Creating an environment that is based on the theme of nature drawn specifically from ‘Sixteen Mile Creek’ which flows near the hospital and its natural habitats: deciduous forests, coniferous forests, wetlands, etc.
  • Incorporating design elements to provide consistent visual interest throughout the facility for both patients and visitors with the inclusion of a variety of finishes and architectural details
  • Using elements drawn from other building types such as specialized lighting, contrasting visual textures, and large volume spaces to change the perception of what healthcare interiors should look like.

Features of the Common Areas at OTMH

Public spaces follow a design theme. The theme for the OTMH public spaces was ‘Sixteen Mile Creek.’ We used materials and colours that are reminiscent of this, a base palette with a focus on natural stone and wood look materials and an accent palette consisting of various tones of blue.

This theme was consistent throughout the various “zones” of the public spaces. These zones include Reception and Information Desks, Donor Recognition, Retail / Food Services, Seating Areas, Art Displays and Wayfinding Areas (i.e., Kiosks & Displays).

Cafeteria Design Highlights

  • Modern, double-sided gas fireplace that is shared with the adjacent court yard
  • Custom bulkheads with integrated LED lighting
  • Custom millwork details – benching, wall paneling
  • Custom feature lighting
  • An extensive amount of glazing that allows for natural light and views to nature


Atrium Design Highlights

  • Modern, linear gas fireplace with two story stone surround
  • Double height curved wood feature wall
  • Custom quartz reception desk
  • Intricately detailed feature terrazzo flooring with carpet inlays at seating areas
  • Feature lighting

Addressing Issues Through Design

Architectural design is also about aesthetics and how people appreciate space. In the case of OTMH, we set out to:

  • Create an environment that felt familiar and calming to both patients and visitors – this was achieved through choosing materials and colours from nature palettes
  • Passive/intuitive wayfinding elements were employed to assist in navigation of the building – this was achieved through the strategic application of colours and materials, as well as lighting and architectural elements
  • Create a space that people would enjoy and promote congregation and interaction to allow the public space at OTMH to be a dynamic part of the community