Jul 19, 2017

Designing a Comforting Facility for Former Athletes at Tulane

With a highly specific audience and mission, Tulane’s Institute for Sports Medicine presented Advent a number of unique design and branding challenges. The Institute is one of a few facilities in the country that focuses solely on the physical and mental health of former professional athletes, in this case the NFL.

A facility within a facility at the Tulane University Medical Center, the Institute of Sports Medicine is backed by The Trust, set up by the NFLPA to provide care for former athletes. Dr. Gregory Stewart, the co-director of Tulane’s Sports Medicine program, also had a clear vision for the Institute as a space welcoming for athletes and their families dealing with specific physical and mental challenges following their careers. Given the clientele’s often mixed feelings toward professional football, designing a football-themed space without overt NFL branding was a major directive.

Advent’s Colin Sandlin led design on the space. Here, he discusses the unique challenges Tulane’s Institute of Sports Medicine provided, and how he worked with Dr. Stewart’s team to create an appropriate and welcoming environment.

“Tulane’s Institute of Sports Medicine is one of three facilities in the country that focuses on the health of former professional athletes, studying concussions and any other injuries they may have had. It’s a facility within a hospital; it’s their own world within the hospital. Some of our design mandates were to create a facility that differentiates this facility from the other similar facilities and from the rest of the Medical Center.

“This turned out to be an interior design project with touches of graphics through the space. We used a teal textured wallcovering, a black micro-thin slate material and wood laminate to warm the space.

“Tulane strongly believes that patients become family. Athletes fly in from all over the country for care. Tulane wanted to create an environment where the players feel at home. A lot of times they’ll be here all day, so they’ll bring their families and children. They wanted us to create in the lounge area a place where you feel at home and not like you are in a hospital waiting room.

“We put 50-60 percent of the budget into the main lounge area where visitors will spent most of their time. Tulane enclosed the area and created a lounge area and kitchenette, and then we created these wood slats to warm it up and carried that through the space. These wood slats create a partial divide where there’s some privacy but it’s still open.”

“The biggest challenge was balancing the brands. This clinic is sponsored by 3-4 entities within the NFL, like the Trust and the Player Care Foundation. We had to balance those brands along with the Tulane School of Medicine. Some of the patients don’t have warm feelings for the NFL, so we had a directive to shy away from football player imagery. We also couldn’t use current and former patients due to non-disclosure laws. Our challenge was to find content to fill the space while staying within those boundaries.

“In place of some graphics, we used a quote from Dr. Stewart, ‘Once you’re ours, you’re always ours, everyone is considered family here.’ That’s something they try to live by so we thought it was important to see it right when you enter the space. We used clean, simple branding on the other side and another mission statement quote from Dr. Stewart, ‘whatever it takes, it’s all about the guys.’

“Instead of NFL imagery, we used old photographs of Tulane Stadium and practices. As you continue to move through the hallways we created a rhythm with the very modern linear lights. In the donor area, the larger donors would get a football with a vinyl name on it and the smaller donors would get an aluminum print.”

Other unique design projects for Advent have included the Belmont Gallery of Iconic Guitars and the offices for CBRE.