Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Completion Date: 1998
Project Team: Frank Harmon, Ellen Cassilly with Judy Harmon, Landscape Architect
The client wanted this building to serve as offices and conference space for a group of psychologists. She also wanted it to fit quietly into its predominately residential neighborhood and feel “home-like” without mimicking an actual residence, which, to the owner, would be dishonest. And honesty in construction was a key goal for this project. The program called for a conference room, individual offices for the therapists, and private entrances for each therapist so his or her patients could enter a safe, secluded space without encountering other patients in an anonymous waiting room. The building is flanked on two sides by modest two- and three-room houses with hipped roofs and porches. Encroaching development, which consists of plain, boxy commercial buildings and parking lots, flank the other two sides. A major city street (Oberlin Road) runs in front of the building, so parking would be relegated to the rear.
Our Design Response
On many levels, this building is a metaphor: It interacts with its site and surroundings as gently as psychologists interact with patients; it rises among the trees and, with its central monitor, glows like a lighthouse in the sense that a psychologist becomes a patient’s beacon of hope; its construction is as accessible as therapists are with their patients. To generate positive psychological and physiological responses, the building’s space, form, and light were arranged not only for aesthetic and practical reasons, but also to create a sense of comfort, familiarity, safety and honesty.
To accommodate the need for privacy and a safe, secluded space, and to create a spacious, central circulation area that doubles as a gallery for the owner’s extensive art collection, offices and private entrances/waiting rooms flank a central “court.” A large, monitor skylight, shaded in summer by deep overhangs, covers the court. And each psychologist’s office has a private entrance so that patients don’t confront each other as they are coming or going. Offices and waiting rooms feature broad, interior clerestories so light from the central court floods into them. Windows and glass-block walls supplement the light from the court so that every room in the building receives natural daylight from both sides, which was an important functional element: People communicate effectively in good light.