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

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.

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.

“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.”

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.

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.”


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