Colleges & Campus News

In the Space of Health and Wellness – for Central Florida and the Future

UCF's masterclass on healthcare architecture is helping students understand that architecture and design have an impact on us, even if we don't realize it.

By Victoria Weston |
November 19, 2018

Carl Beers

Carl Beers believes in making an investment in Orlando and UCF students. The Central Florida architect has been a regular visitor to one of UCF’s architecture classes for the past five summers. The class, “In the Space of Health and Wellness,” is one that Beers is certainly qualified to lead.

Beers, a principal with HKS Health and the Florida Health Group Practice Leader at HKS Architects Inc., says his firm works on large and complex projects: stadiums, office buildings, performing arts centers and more. However, health and wellness has always been a personal focus for him “because it’s spiritual…places of worship, long-term care facilities, hospitals, places that are center to the core of what we are about as humans.”

Beers provides UCF architecture students a semester-long masterclass on where healthcare architecture has been and where it is going.

“He has a wealth of information to share. He’s at class every day,” says Allen Watters, director of the architecture program. “He’s helping students understand that healthcare spaces are not just hospitals—they’re doctor’s offices, clinics, drugstores, spaces around and outside these buildings—and to help them think broadly and holistically.”

The most gratifying part of the partnership, he says, is the ability to help inspire the next generation of design and nurture new talent.

“He’s helping students understand that healthcare spaces are not just hospitals—they’re doctor’s offices, clinics, drugstores, spaces around and outside these buildings—and to help them think broadly and holistically.” – Allen Watters, director of UCF’s architecture program

“We call it ‘sharpening the sword.’ It makes us sharper and it reminds us of the passion and why we got into architecture,” Beers says. Linking a world-renowned firm to an academic program teaches students not only the foundations, thought process and aesthetics of architecture needed to make the world a better place, but how to do it.

Both Watters and Beers agree that examining healthcare facilities is one of the best ways for students to learn. Those facilities combine construction requirements and codes found in every building imaginable:  Hospitals are hotels, medical offices, restaurants and more combined into one complex. Added to that is the fact that metrics and new research create opportunities for innovation in these spaces. The healthcare needs are always changing, and Watters and Beers say architecture plays a large role in responding to those needs.

The health and wellness course is hands-on, and includes drawing, digital work and model-building. Course topics include healthy eating, exercise, integrating existing facilities into urban fabric, and field trips to hospitals under construction.  Students in the course are taught that “healthcare isn’t just about big hospitals. It is an expanding field of architecture that deals with all facets of life,” according to Beers.

Former student Savannah Heipp is an architectural intern at HKS in Orlando. She says she already held a personal interest in healthcare architecture before taking the course, but soon felt the course become an important asset to her curriculum.

“The one thing that set this class apart was having a helpful leader in the healthcare industry teaching the class,” she says. “The first-hand knowledge and real-world approach Carl provided, along with the amount of passion, knowledge and excitement he brought to the class, definitely impacted me personally and drove me to focus strictly on this field of study.”

Beers says he welcomes the opportunity to influence students and their architectural projects to be “as positive and uplifting to them as I can.”

Studies have shown that more comfortable and artistically focused patient rooms lead to lower stress levels, requests for pain medication and reports of pain.

Beers and Watters say they ensure the students understand this balance. “Architecture and design does have an impact on us that we don’t often realize,” Beers says. “You’re creating a space that is artful for everyone, which is like paying it forward to society.”

The UCF Architecture program is a 2+2+2 program where students earn their associate’s degree from Valencia College, bachelor’s from UCF and master’s from the University of Florida. Students travel, take classes and are provided internship opportunities. To learn more about the bachelor of design in the architecture program, visit