Clockwork Architecture + Design

Local architect making mark on health care and around the country

Matt Smithmier - Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Kansas City, Mo.Doctor visits (and, even worse, hospital stays) are inherently stressful. However, health care providers are working with forward-thinking architecture and design firms to create physical sanctuaries that promote healing and reduce stress—giving treatments a much better chance to work.

Founded in 2005, Clockwork Architecture + Design has slowly been making a name for itself in this health care space by demonstrating the power of design to go beyond aesthetics. Capitalizing on the patient experience by incorporating access to daylight and natural elements – both of which have been scientifically correlated with better clinical outcomes – the Clockwork team has been able to create spaces that are both pleasing to the eye and healing to the body—offering a level of discovery and calm to the patient experience.

The team recently worked with Overland Park-based Infusion Express, which offers patient-centered IV therapy in private suites designed to make the process as comfortable and private as possible. The company has locations in the Kansas City, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia areas. And Clockwork’s Baltimore office recently completed the design and construction of a 15,000-square-foot outpatient clinic for the nationally recognized Children’s National Health System, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

“In lieu of one large waiting room, we designed several separate waiting areas to provide a more personal (and private) patient experience,” said Chester Bartels, principal at Clockwork. “We made sure to capitalize on the building’s large windows to capture as much daylight and view to the exterior as possible. Throughout the clinic, we also infused many natural wood and textured materials to cut down on the ‘institutional’ feel and to carry a personal experience through the patient’s journey, which is vital to the healing of young patients.”

These recent health care-related wins come on top of the firm’s accelerated growth in both the Kansas City and in the Baltimore/Mid-Atlantic markets. Recent projects in the Kansas City region include a new headquarters for local nonprofit Operation Breakthrough and a new hometown presence for GEICO. In the Baltimore market, the firm is designing an Olympic training center in Leesburg, Va., a new performing arts building for the Compass Rose Theater (a professional teaching theater in Annapolis, Md.) and the renovation of one of Baltimore’s historic piers on the inner harbor at Brown’s Wharf.

“It’s been a busy year for sure, but this kind of growth is the best type of business challenge to have,” said Christian Arnold, Clockwork’s founding principal. “We’re excited to expand both of our markets as we get the opportunity to work with many different types of clients to bring their vision to life.”

About Clockwork

At Clockwork Architecture + Design, we believe the art of listening and asking why is just as important as the art of design. We build buildings and wow-factor workspaces—but we also build relationships. We understand our clients and see their vision, and then infuse our imagination and creativity to transform their space. It’s all about communication and simplification—on schedule and on budget. It’s confidence without ego through a relentless – and fearless – pursuit of success for our clients. Learn more at


Patients reap the rewards of 'healing architecture'

Chris Jimenez - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I know a hospital administrator who would repeatedly remind his employees, “We’re selling a service no one wants.” It was his way of reinforcing the importance of making every patient visit as comfortable as possible. Because – let’s face it – no one wants to go to the doctor. Ever.

Doctor visits (and, even worse, hospital stays) are inherently stressful—invasive tests and procedures, the discomfort of an illness, the worry about the bill. And stress is a destructive force. Even as we’re visiting the doctor to get better, our body is working against itself as it wrestles with anxiety and fear.

However, health care providers are learning more about how to enhance the power of the environment that surrounds the patient to better their experience. By working with forward-thinking architecture and design firms, these hospitals and clinics are creating physical sanctuaries that promote healing and reduce stress—giving treatments a much better chance to work.

Let the light shine in

Sunlight heals! Natural sunlight and a view to the outside are now playing a larger role in health care design.

The research has proven its power: One study from the Department of Neuropsychiatric Sciences at the University of Milan found that bipolar patients assigned to an east-facing room with access to bright, morning sunlight reduced their hospital stay by four days, as compared with patients in west-facing rooms. Another study looked at heart patients in the critical care unit. Those with rooms that overlooked sunny areas had a lower mortality rate than those with rooms that overlooked shadowed areas.

The benefits are not limited to sunlight, of course, as new advances in LED technology are demonstrating. Building Design + Construction reports:

“Although LED lighting usually gets attention as a money-saving, energy-saving strategy … it can also bring measurable improvements to a facility’s performance in terms of patient recovery times, patient experience, medical staff performance, and staff job satisfaction.”

Get back to nature

Even as our society becomes increasingly more technology-centered, we still inherently crave that basic connection to the natural world. While a sunny view is nice, a sunny view of a garden has a much more profound effect on healing than a sunny view of a brick wall or a rooftop covered in HVAC equipment. In fact, research from Roger Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems & Design at Texas A&M, has proven that just looking at certain aspects of the natural world can “significantly ameliorate stress within only five minutes or less.”

In addition, it turns out that pictures of nature and unexpected imagery are almost as good as the real thing. One study reported by Ulrich showed that, “Compared to patients assigned abstract pictures and control groups given no pictures, patients exposed to a nature view of water and trees [had] less anxiety and required fewer strong pain doses.”

Anne Stahl, one of our project designers, recently integrated a lively mural along the patient corridors of one of our health care projects. The art interacts with daylight, providing a calming experience of discovery and enjoyment.

More than just a pretty space

We were excited to bring many of these best practices to life with a recent project we worked on in Annapolis, Md. Children’s National Health System was relocating one of its clinics, and we partnered with their staff to create a truly one-of-a-kind environment for their pediatric patients.

Instead of one large waiting room, we designed several separate wait areas for a more personal (and private) experience. We made sure to include large windows to let in as much daylight (and views of nature) as possible. Throughout the clinic, we also infused many natural wood elements to cut down on the “institutional” feel and carry that connection with nature through the patient journey.

One of my favorite features is the furniture in the waiting areas, which I describe as “part furniture, part exploration.” The seating is comfortable for parents but allows kids to climb and explore—instead of just sitting in a chair and worrying.

Amy Goodwin, executive director of public relations and corporate communications for Children’s National, said the new space has been well-received by patients and their families:

“There’s beautiful art that’s colorful, exciting, very modern. The lighting is subtle and takes advantage of all the natural light, and it just has a very warm feel. It doesn’t feel like a clinical space. You can go there and get the best possible pediatric care; at the same time, you don’t feel like you’re in a hospital or a physician’s office.”

We’re excited to continue our work on even more projects that incorporate this type of “healing architecture.” All of us at Clockwork believe design is more than just an afterthought or matter of aesthetics, and whether it’s a corporate office space, residential apartment, bank or pediatric clinic, we love helping our clients create a space that just feels good.

Chester Bartels is a principal at Clockwork, an architecture + design firm ready to align with forward thinkers and progressive leaders. How has design improved the patient experience for you? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @ClockworkAD.

Cerner Bear Institute Children's National Medical Center

Santina Cessor - Monday, August 17, 2015

Clockwork architect Chester Bartels guest lectured at Clockwork designed Bear Institute Innovation + Learning Center in Washington, D.C. on Friday August 14, 2015. The room was filled with Bear Institute Innovation executives and members all eager to kick off their workplace lecture series.