The interactive and playful Centre for Overweight Adolescent and Children’s Healthcare of the Maastricht UMC+, The Netherlands, has been named as the best Interior Design and Arts project at the European Healthcare Design Awards 2018.
“COACH is a playful, action packed creative project and a strikingly innovative response to contemporary issues regarding healthy behaviour and lifestyle changes at a young age. It challenges current conventions in healthcare design and services and was the unanimous choice of the judges.”
Design approach: transform treatment into play
The experience architects of Utrecht-based Tinker imagineers understand the desire for play. The urge for activity should be supported with stimulating interactive architecture. For the temporary location of COACH—the Centre for Overweight Adolescent and Children’s Healthcare of the Maastricht UMC+, where medical staff coach kids to live a healthier and more active life—Tinker imagineers made a stimulating environment that seems miles away from the world of doctors and hospitals, but does not look too “sporty” or competitive either.
“Finding the right look and feel for such an outpatients’ clinic is a delicate matter”, states creative consultant Ralf Lambie. “We came up with a set-up that matches the mission of COACH to empower children and young people: ‘finding their greatness’.”
At COACH, play is half the treatment. Consultations and weigh-ins take place in colourful, soundproof pavilions scattered around two central squares, while intersecting lines and surfaces are reminiscent of a mash-up of various playing fields. In the open waiting area, where nobody actually waits, “treatment” starts before the appointment does. The number one stimulus is the fact that you can’t sit down and wait for your turn because the waiting area has been changed into a playground. There is an array of interactive games that require stretching, climbing, swinging, riding, moving, and working together. They can, for instance, try to keep their balance while collecting the healthy products falling down on a display. Or stretch and work together to make the right connections to switch the lights on.
An interactive wall introduces the participants to the world of COACH. Children are asked questions like: “Did you know that breakfast is the best way to start the day?” or “Did you know that your body is like a rechargeable battery?” A sensor in the wooden wall responds to their touch, and an animation projected on that wall provides the answer. The information is truly brought to life here—in a light, non-patronising way. Some of the touch points are deliberately placed higher on the wall, to encourage children to involve their parents in the game.
Every pavilion is varied in shape, colour, and form and has different seating and standing furniture. The pavilions have been constructed with an eye for detail: unexpected touches of colour and remarkable constructions. In order to stress the pop-up character, the structures were made of unfinished wood and the pipes in the ceiling are still visible. The synergy with the builders pushed the project to a higher level of execution. The light plan was adapted as well and refers to the mixed-up lines of a playing field, too.
The design approach and strategy of the programme has proved to be successful: 70 percent of the participants lose weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle under the supervision of COACH.
The program’s founder of COACH, paediatrician Anita Vreugdenhil, states: ’In the interactive environment, children feel at home and tend to start exploring. They learn about a healthy lifestyle without any pressure. The room does not refer to a hospital environment, and the playful consulting rooms help us to keep it light. As a result, the children and their caretakers feel at ease drawing up a treatment plan with us.’
Facts and credits
Location—Maastricht, The Netherlands
Interior and experience design—Tinker imagineers
Game development—Tinker imagineers
Decor construction — Landstra & De Vries
Size—400 sq m
Project End Date—2017
About Tinker imagineers
Tinker imagineers is an experience design and production agency from Utrecht, the Netherlands. Rooted in cognitive psychology, Tinker mixes the latest insights in human sense making with the storytelling and creative use of media technology. Tinker realises museums, visitor centres, and experiences for business and community organisations and has a broad national and international portfolio. Especially for healthcare institutions Tinker designs distractive, playful and interactive healing environments like the Juliana Children’s Hospital, The Hague (2015), The New Experience—a magical experience for multiple disabled people or advanced dementia and their families (2016) and many more.