A Beautiful Facelift

Jennifer Busch

Perkins+Will  takes its mission statement, “Ideas and buildings that honor the broader goals of society,” very seriously.  The international firm, a supporter of  Public Architecture’s The 1% program, has developed a sophisticated strategy for integrating both environmentally and socially responsible design into its business model. One recent P+W pro bono project, the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute of Juanita Craft in South Dallas, is an excellent example of how good and thoughtful design can enrich good works.

The renovation of the 21,000-sq. ft. Juanita J. Craft health and recreation center in the Frazier section of Dallas into a new, 24,000-sq. ft. facility that houses a diabetes clinic, wellness center, and recreation center did more than tackle the pressing problem of diabetes in this historically African American neighborhood of Dallas, where Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft was a prominent civil rights leader from the 1920s through the 1960s. “It was intended to result in an exciting facility that could boost the morale and uplift the health and general wellness of this area,” explains Courtney Johnston, regional interiors design director in the Dallas office of P+W.

To accomplish its design and functional goals, the firm inserted a modern glass box into the existing 1960s structure. The new volume serves as the welcome area and architectural focus of the building, and sets the tone for a sophisticated design statement that is not typically seen in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Key programmatic requirements, including a teaching kitchen, aerobics rooms, game room, gymnasium, fitness room, classrooms, administrative offices, and exam rooms, were either added or renovated according to Baylor’s wish list for the center. One major design feature that connects back to the over-arching goal of the client, according to Johnston, is the sense of openness and transparency conveyed by the copious use of glass at the façade, and throughout the interiors. “The storefront design promotes wellness by allowing people to see through the building to all the activities inside,” she says.

In addition to the donation of services by P+W and the Dallas engineering firms ccrd Partners and L.A. Fuess, the designers were able to secure generous donations of furniture and finishes to outfit the interiors. And while the center is not LEED-certified, it was designed to high environmental standards as a matter of course. “We put some of our own initiatives into it,” notes Johnston. “It is always P+W’s mission to design sustainable buildings.”

“A lot of effort went into this project,” continues Johnston, noting that the Dallas design team reached across the firm to find colleagues in other P+W offices who could contribute particular skills and talents to raise the design quality of the building. One great example of an unanticipated improvement to the “facelift” is the addition of the abstract image of Juanita Craft that is etched into the glass front entry, and is considered a point of pride for the neighborhood. The etching was contributed by Eileen Jones of P+W’s Chicago office, and serves as a reminder that a single person, a single action…or a single percent…can make a difference.


Every movement starts with a single action:
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