Announcements August 1, 2023

Meet Shailagh McCormack, an E. Todd Wheeler Health Fellow, Class of 2024

Shailagh will be based in our Boston Studio.

Where are you from?
Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

What is your degree, and what institution is it from?
I have a Master’s Degree in Architecture and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture from Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Why is healthcare design so important to you and why did you want to pursue a career in healthcare design?
During my first year of college, my grandmother was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder known as progressive supranuclear palsy. The disorder is incurable and progresses painfully slowly, which has allowed me the time to come to terms with the reality of what is happening. Over the years, her condition has only worsened and has led to numerous emergency room visits, hospital and rehabilitation stays, and now a skilled nursing facility. By accompanying my grandmother to these various facilities, I have noticed the impact these unfamiliar spaces have on my grandmother. It is an unfamiliar world with unique jargon and fast-paced adjustments, so it seems counterintuitive that these facilities that are meant to heal or manage pain are so lacking in basic humanistic design principles.

My interest in healthcare design stems from these personal experiences within healthcare settings. I constantly find them to be jarring and detrimental to the emotional well-being of myself and my loved ones. This heartbreaking experience has unearthed a passion in me to bring about a change in the way we design spaces with an approach that attempts to mitigate some of the negative psychological influences found in current healthcare facilities.

Shailagh's thesis project titled, "Into the Light: An Architectural Approach to the End-of-Life Experience," with an exploration into meditative spaces.

What was it about the E. Todd Wheeler Health Fellowship that attracted you?
This fellowship attracted me because it allowed me to continue what I loved so much about my thesis: research. I love design and I love research, so getting to harmonize those architectural interests through evidence-based design is amazing. One of the key principles of this fellowship is about shaping the future of how we design healthcare settings, which is where my heart lies. It is great to have found such a unique position because it is exactly what I want to do.

What does it mean to you, personally, to have been selected as a health fellow at our firm?
It means the world to me to have been selected as a health fellow at Perkins&Will. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from leading healthcare design professionals in the industry. I found this fellowship over a year ago and had my heart set on it all through my thesis explorations in graduate school. I was shocked that I was even being considered for the role, let alone receiving it. This fellowship is my dream job.

What do you hope to learn from the experience?
I hope to learn as much as possible from this experience, starting with the experts inside the design world, but also those outside. Perkins&Will puts an emphasis on research that allows for a lot of interdisciplinary interactions. I would love to work with experts outside of the design field to learn more about what goes into healthcare design. Doctors, patients, and psychologists are just a few examples. I hope they will teach me about what it means to design from more than just the lens of my personal experiences but of others as well.

Have your mentor and colleagues given you the support, training, and resources to accomplish your goals?
My mentor and colleagues have been giving me everything I need to accomplish my goals. I am not afraid to ask any questions because someone will thoughtfully provide an answer, or at least provide me with the resources I need to answer them on my own. Everyone has been so nice and welcoming; it has been a very heartwarming experience joining this team.

What anticipated goals and experiences were you most excited about when joining Perkins&Will?
I was and am really excited to be working with all of the incredible individuals toward the common goal of bettering our designs. One of the things I am most excited about, beyond my specific research, is attending one of the healthcare conferences where I will get to meet even more like-minded individuals and experts on the topics that I am most interested in.

A wooden boathouse model from Shailagh's undergraduate studies.
Shailagh enjoys abstract painting in her free time!

How would you describe Perkins&Will’s company culture (3 words)?
Genuine, exciting, and inspiring.

5 Fun Facts About Shailagh

  1. I have wanted to be an architect since I was ten years old. I have some old notebooks from my childhood that I was drawing floor plans for my dream home, though I’d say my design preferences have changed quite a bit since then!
  2. I have traveled to ten countries, most recently Finland and Iceland on a study abroad trip where I experienced the inspiring work of Alvar Aalto, including the Villa Mairea.
  3. In my free time, I enjoy abstract painting. It allows me to turn my brain off and create something thought-provoking.
  4. I love baking desserts. I have perfected my lemon sugar cookie and chiffon cake recipes which are frequent requests.
  5. If I could time travel to any decade, I would want to go back to the ‘80s. I have an affinity for ‘80s pop and rock music and have a collection of vinyl records from my favorite artists. Plus, it would be really fun to see all those hairdos when they were actually in style.