Where are you from?
Philadelphia, PA–the land of cheesesteaks, Wawa hoagies, and rowdy sports fans.
What is your degree, and what institution is it from?
Master of Arts (M.A.) in Design & Health from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
Neuroscience Applied to Architectural Design (NAAD) from the Università Iuav di Venezia in Venice, Italy.
Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch) from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.
Why is healthcare design so important to you and why did you want to pursue a career in healthcare design?
As empathetic design is central to my design philosophy, healthcare design is complementary. To me, the word “architecture” is synonymous with the word “choreography.” Further, I strongly believe that the environments that we design have a powerful effect on the user’s experience, health, and wellness. Through healthcare design, we can not only bridge the gap between research and design, but also choreograph a healthier experience and interactions for patients, practitioners, staff, and visitors within healthcare settings.
Interestingly, I actually didn’t begin my architectural career in healthcare, however, over the years, I have slowly gravitated more and more towards healthcare design practice. What attracts me to healthcare design is the visible influence of evidence-based design and the accessible impact of design on mental and physical health outcomes. As there are several systemic issues within the current U.S. healthcare system, the research-integrated design allows for the opportunity to affect change in positive and beneficial ways to create happier and healthier environments through design.
What was it about the E. Todd Wheeler Health Fellowship that attracted you?
As my career goals lie at the intersection between translational design and healthcare research, this fellowship was a perfect fit for me. As the E. Todd Wheeler Health Fellowship is a unique role within the architectural industry to contribute evidence-based design to real-world healthcare applications, I am excited to be a part of the journey toward integrative research and healthier design initiatives.
I was also particularly attracted by the research conducted by the Human Experience Lab at Perkins&Will in which physical, physiological, and psychological health outcomes were directly linked to the design of healthcare settings in ways that can be easily integrated into design. Outside of the fellowship, I was also attracted to Perkins&Will’s mission to make a positive impact on the world. It is evident that there is a passion for social initiatives, commitment to sustainable measures, drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion, attention to quality and detail, as well as their dedication to research.
What does it mean to you, personally, to have been selected as a health fellow at our firm?
I am incredibly grateful to have been selected as an E. Todd Wheeler Health Fellow for Perkins&Will. Over the past nine years in the industry, I have been searching for a place in the architectural community where my niche research interests in health and wellness might fit in. Having worked in both architectural practice and in health research, this fellowship presented me with a rare career opportunity for me to bridge my worlds. What has been invaluable to me is that this fellowship has provided me with an inclusive space for my hybridized interests and has re-invigorated my motivation to continue following my passions in evidence-based design.
What do you hope to learn from the experience?
During this fellowship, I hope to find the balance between evidence-based research and architectural design through a hands-on approach. While conventionally, these disciplines were largely segregated, I am keen to observe how research produces physical results in the built environment.
In addition, my previous research on biophilic design and water has only skimmed the surface of design implications for mental and behavioral health. However, this fellowship has given me the opportunity to dive much deeper into the world of healthcare and to learn more about research through a finer lens of design implementation.
I am also hoping to engage in interdisciplinary collaboration with those with unique perspectives during this fellowship. It would be enriching to listen, observe, and discuss ideas within the healthcare industry from experts, clinicians, mentors, and colleagues.
Have your mentor and colleagues given you the support, training, and resources to accomplish your goals?
At Perkins&Will, the amount of support that I have received for my research has extended beyond the walls of the LA studio. I can easily say that I have multiple mentors and colleagues across different time zones who are always willing to lend me a hand or share a new resource. I am truly thankful to be surrounded by such a supportive and encouraging team both in LA and in various studios.
What anticipated goals and experiences were you most excited about when joining Perkins&Will?
When joining Perkins&Will, I was most excited to meet other like-minded individuals with similar passions for healthcare research and design. During my interview, I really enjoyed the creative and collaborative conversation that we had about the ebbs and flows of the healthcare industry, areas that aren’t working as efficiently, and potential design initiatives for the future. I am excited to have the opportunity to continue this ongoing conversation.
How would you describe Perkins&Will’s company culture (3 words)?
Inclusive, progressive, and motivating.
5 Fun Facts About Connie
- I have once run and completed a marathon (26.2 miles) in under 4 hours! Unfortunately, I also did not train for it and injured my knee at mile 22.
- In 2019, I lived through three natural climate disasters – a polar vortex with freezing temperatures in Chicago, IL, a 7.5 earthquake in Taipei, Taiwan, and the “Acqua Alta” or high tide flooding in Venice, Italy.
- “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is a profound book that I highly recommend. My favorite quote is “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
- A waterfall that has largely impacted my career is the Nungnung Waterfall in Bali, Indonesia. Not only can you feel sheltered in the cave-like area behind the waterfall, but running into the rushing water is also so motivating and refreshing. This was the start of my deep dive into environmental psychology and water research!
- Now that I am in southern California, I am currently attempting a long-standing dream to grow warmer-climate plants that I could not grow in the Northeast!