By Caitlyn Finnegan
When Shands Healthcare opened its offices for Shands Family Medical at Main in June of 2012, it was faced with a major problem: the building wasn’t quite finished yet.
Built on a former used car sales lot located at 1707 N. Main St., the facility’s purpose was to help fill a void in medical care for east Gainesville after Alachua General Hospital shutdown in 2009 to provide space for Innovation Square. Although the examination rooms and administration offices were all functional and ready to use, the building’s outer wall still sat bare and gray.
“The building was close to the street but had no way to engage pedestrians,” says John Fleming, a development partner with Trimark Properties, the firm chosen by Shands to help develop the property. “We knew we had to think of a design that would make it stand out.”
The developers’ concern for the building’s design was twofold. For starters, they didn’t want the building to appear cold and institutional; second, they saw the project as an opportunity to provide a new standard of development in the area.
“We didn’t want the building to come off as a prison,” Fleming says. “So we brainstormed ideas that would remind people of family, but still let people know that this was a medical center. We came up with the idea that the design should mimic a wall of family portraits”
The team ended up turning to Christina Mullen, the director of Arts in Medicine for Shands Healthcare, to help in their search for an artist to complete the design. Mullen’s job to encourage collaboration between the arts and medical sciences had helped her develop relationships within the local art community, so she quickly rounded up about a dozen ideas from artists willing to work on the project.
Submissions from two metalwork artists, Hugo Cruz and Alexis Dold, stood out.
The two agreed to work together, combining their styles to produce five geometric installations that incorporated cobalt blue glass, anodized aluminum, oxidized metal and polished stainless steel (the orange- and blue-tinted materials helped pay homage to the center’s ties to UF).
After five weeks of shaping glass, molding metal and routing other metals and PVC through the enourmous panels, the artists and designers installed the final products onto the wall in a pattern that evoked the look of a portrait gallery. The structure is just as functional as it is a piece of art – a trend seen in many of the buildings maintained by Shands and UF.
“(The buildings) are all beautiful and filled with art by many talented artists,” Cruz says. “It’s almost like having countless mini-museums and amazing artworks scattered throughout Gainesville.”