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Design Center

June 1, 2004
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On the Avenue Aultman Woodlawn Canton, Ohio by Robert Volzer, CID, IIDA
Aultman Woodlawn

Type of Facility/Setting: Subacute Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation
Owner: Aultman Health Foundation
Chief Administrator: Linda Casey, Administrator, (330) 479-4800
Architecture/Interior Design: Hasenstab Architects, Inc., (330) 434-4464
Construction Manager: Aultman Engineering, (330) 438-6287
Photography: ¬ 2003 Rick Zaidan Photography
Capacity: 90 beds (60 skilled nursing, 30 rehabilitation)
Total Project Area (sq. ft.): 75,000
Construction Costs (excluding land): Not released

On the avenue
Art imitates life on Aultman Avenue, the heart of this contemporary subacute nursing and rehabilitation center. A departure from the faux "village storefronts" seen in many nursing homes, this "Main Street" design is hands-on and plays an essential rehabilitation role for more than 90% of Aultman's residents receiving rehabilitative care.

"Our Aultman Alternatives (Seniors Group) recommended duplicating tasks of daily living," says Erica Ohler, project engineer, "which resulted in the design and construction of several interactive vignettes, including a parking area with a real car, street crossings and curb cuts, a gas station, a diner, and a grocery store. There is even a working ATM (with play money) that strengthens cognitive skills as residents use their assigned PIN numbers when asked to make various transactions, such as withdrawing money for use at the grocery."

The Avenue theme extends to the signage and wayfinding system, in that all residents have a "home" address, such as "312 Willow Street," relating to one of three units named for indigenous tree species. Dining is decentralized to the three units, which are organized into clusters of eight private rooms and include private bathing and a conceptual "front porch" defined by overhead soffits and flooring material changes.

"Goals of our project included preparing our health system for the 'medi-boom' by diverting our subacute population from an expanding acute care urban hospital to a more natural, 23-acre site," explains Craig Niemeyer of Aultman, "and expanding on our continuum of care with the inclusion of offices for our home health agency and hospice care team, all with the aim of preserving a common culture across all our facilities."

When I toured Woodlawn personally, my reservations about some of the more traditionally presented elements, such as the nurses' stations and resilient floors, quickly subsided when I saw the actual facility layout. Its shorter unit corridors containing clusters of private rooms, the balance provided by its courtyards and natural views, and some intended design continuity-between the special OT/PT/Rehab core and the living units-works well for its subacute care model. With just the right balance of architectural and interior design details to create a welcoming space for residents in rehabilitative care and their family members, I found that Aultman Woodlawn offers a refreshing contrast to the abundance of 19th-century design trappings so often promoted in nursing home interiors, while imparting a clean, upscale, professional image to complement the facility's quality of care.DESIGN CENTER SPONSORED BY: