Even after 28 years in the industry, Ron Gorham still clearly remembers his first project as an architecture intern: a new radiation therapy vault. Because he was new to healthcare design and didn’t know much about the treatment, he says his first step was to study the environment, something he was taught to do in school.
He got the chance to observe the clinical staff and then shadow a boy receiving radiation therapy and his mother. What he saw affected him.
“I noticed the visceral reactions they had as they went from waiting room to exam room to the linear accelerator vault: scared, intimidated, confused, and not wanting to be there,” Gorham says. “The whole experience changed the way I look at healthcare projects.”
Inspired by this, he decided to focus his career on healthcare. In November 2018, he left TRO Jung Brannen after 22 years to lead the healthcare practice at Perkins+Will’s Boston office, where he’s worked on an addition for Maine Medical Center (Portland, Maine) and pharmacy upgrades at Queen Elizabeth II Medical Center (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada).
“Healthcare projects are complex and meaningful,” he says. “We can have an impact on the people who enter the buildings we design.”
What lesson from your first healthcare project do you still carry with you today?
No matter the budget, we can do something that improves the experience—ease wayfinding, introduce natural materials, provide better lighting or acoustics, increase ventilation, add color, organize spaces, improve workflows, etc. It makes a difference for both the patient and clinicians.
On industry trends:
Thumbs up: Flexible/adaptable planning and use of prefabricated design. The world of healthcare is constantly changing, and our buildings need to be adaptable to those changes. Appropriate column spacing, floor heights, and redundant engineering infrastructure will allow for greater flexibility in changes of clinical use. Prefabricated components can also help provide quality control, increase the speed of construction, minimize on-site disruption, and be cost neutral.
Thumbs down:Circular inpatient units. It’s a great conceptual planning idea for visibility to a central nurses’ station but not very flexible for change of use in the future.
Three words to describe your design aesthetic
3 nature inspired (OK, that’s four words)
Items on your desk
I have one: A baseball. I enjoy sports and it’s how I approach life: Individually we practice each day to be at our best and we go to the plate swinging hard each time to hit the ball. If a ball gets by you, shrug it off and learn from it. On the field, your teammates will back you up. In practice, we try individually to make a difference, yet no matter how talented we are, we play as a team and we win or lose as a team. It’s a team sport.
Quote: “Life is short. Live life each day as your last. Have no regrets!”—My father.
Band/musical artist: Chris Stapleton.
Movie character: The Godfather, Don Corleone. He remains poised under pressure.
Weekend activity: Fire pit with my kids at night. It’s relaxing and fun.
Color: Shades of blue. I think of the sky, ocean, and water.
Guilty pleasure: Pizza.
Social media outlet: LinkedIn. I like the postings and articles.
Snack when you travel: Dried fruit.
City to visit: Boston. Yes, I live there. But we have such a beautiful and historic city and seaport area! Otherwise, New York—a diverse city with many progressive architectural styles, a sense of history and energy, and arguably the hub to America.
Ice cream flavor: Fudge ripple.
Team: Red Sox.
Book: Bible. So many great stories that are relevant to today.
Outside the office, you’ll likely find me…
Outdoors. It keeps me grounded.
Dog or cat?
Dog. Protector, loyal, friend.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee, black. I need the jolt to function in the a.m.
Morning person or night owl?
Definitely night owl.
Beer, wine, or liquor?
Beer. I enjoy the variety of craft brews.
Window or aisle seat?
Window seat. I like to see new places and where I’m going.
Gorham is overseeing the design team on the Congress Street addition for Maine Medical Center (shown at left), expected to be completed in 2023.