Interior design

Sleights of Mind, is an unavoidable result born of the ‘sheer limitations in the numbers of neurons and neural connections underlying our sensory and mental processes’.8

We are accustomed to the notion that our perception of reality of what is out there is accurate, but this simply is not true. Our visual circuits are not passive transmitters of sensory input, but actively ‘amplify, suppress, converge, and diverge all incoming visual information,” to use Macknik and Martinez-Conde’s words. They go further and assert, ‘You perceive what you see as something different from reality. Perception means resolving ambiguity.’9 Restorative illusions of sky not only compound the benefits of positive distraction, but also evoke how we instinctively feel in natural environments: engaged, relaxed, and receptive. The success gained in healthcare environments led to an interest to examine the neuroarchitecture of biophilic illusions. In 2012, Sky Factory partnered with Texas Tech University’s Neuroimaging Institute on a pioneering study that was published in peer- reviewed academic journal Health Environments Research & Design. That pioneering study earned the International Academy for Design & Health’s Best International Research Project Award in 2014, as well as the Certificate of Research Excellence in 2017 from the Environmental Design Research Association.

The study was not only recognized for its rigorous methodology, but also for its interdisciplinary nature. It also shed light on a practice-based application and advanced design thinking by noting that Sky Factory’s multisensory sky images like Open Sky Compositions can have a tangible and restorative effect in architectural interiors. The award-winning study, Neural Correlates of Nature Stimuli: an fMRI Study, revealed the specifically designed, photographic Open Sky Compositions not only share the characteristic neural activations present in positive images - including nature images - but also uniquely engaged areas of the brain involved in spatial cognition. Of particular interest to the researchers were the activations found in the cerebellum as it is often associated with aspects of spatial cognition or the experience of extended space.

With a neurological understanding of the power of biophilic illusions to alter perceived space in enclosed interiors, indoor spaces leverage a research-based


approach to alter occupants’ pre- cognitive assessment of interior space. Using such tools, isolated areas can be adapted to provide long-term sustainable interiors for care home environments.

Early adopter success Serenades in Longwood, Florida, for example, is a state-of-the-art care home, part of the Sonata Senior Living group. Although the Longwood facilities were beautifully designed, the building featured several enclosed interiors. The main concern was over the building-length, double-wide corridors.

Each one of the long corridors featured attractive sitting coves for residents, offering a welcoming array of tropical styled furniture. However, residents ignored the arrangement and rarely sat there.

After discussing several proposals, the team at Serenades was intrigued by the idea of redesigning those isolated spaces with cost-effective virtual applications. By installing a series of architectural illusions over the sitting coves, they hoped to create a palpable perception of proximity to Florida’s temperate blue skies so that residents might flock to those spaces. In consultation with Sky Factory designers on the optimal size for the skylight, the retrofitted ‘skylight lounges’ became popular resting points. The virtual skylights provide memory care residents with a beautiful and serene environment that lifts their mood, engages their senses, and even helps staff recharge throughout the day. Likewise, the main lounge at Saint Joseph’s retirement home in Orleans, France, features a virtual skylight with a captivating outlook. A vivid blue sky beckons behind white clouds and slender branches that cradle the soft curve of the perimeter with soft hues of lavender buds and supple chartreuse leaves. Sitting in one of the many plush ottomans around the retirement’s home main lounge, residents can glance at the colourful foliage while they converse with fellow residents or visiting family.

Isolated areas can be adapted to provide long- term sustainable interiors for care home environments

Whether they are aware of the skylight or not, its therapeutic effects permeate the lounge. The skylight’s LED arrays - hidden behind each modular, image panel - emit a correlated colour temperature of 6500K. In addition to mimicking daylight, this particular wavelength is most effective in bringing to life the 260cm diameter of this ultra-high resolution, photographic Open Sky Composition. Unbeknown to all but those who commissioned the fine art installation, this type of photography also generates an autonomic nervous system reaction. In response to the distinctive blue hue and the contextual cues embedded within the photographic composition and around the skylight’s modular panels, the restorative illusion of depth engages the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the body’s automatic relaxation response. This illusory sky is one of a growing number of biophilic design features that also include virtual windows and virtual aquariums commissioned by care home environments across Europe and North America.

UK pressures

Demographic pressure on the U.K. care home market is forecasted to outstrip supply as early as 2022. Consequently, there is more pressure on existing operators to provide responsive care and support. Further compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, larger facilities are turning to proven environmental design solutions to help maintain resident wellbeing.

Adding to these twin pressures, forecasts show a 31% increase in social care workforce demand, equal to 500,000 jobs will be needed by 2030. Furthermore, the care home workforce in England has one of the highest turnovers in the service sector, 33.8% for care workers and 32.1% for registered nurses.10 Both Brexit and the pandemic will likely exacerbate the labour shortage. Altogether these trends place extraordinary pressure on operators to maintain health and social care standards, particularly in terms of the environment of care.

Operators are already struggling to maintain the quality of their interior spaces to safeguard the well-being of their residents. As facilities grapple with providing better care, with fewer resources, one of the key factors will be the scale of operations.

The environment of care will gravitate away from small facilities and consolidate around medium-sized operations, those between 60 to 99 beds, whose • May 2020

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