‘I don’t want the Taj Mahal’

Jan. 1, 2011
The Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world. The structure is built entirely of white marble ...

Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA

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The Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world. The structure is built entirely of white marble and was constructed during a 20-year period employing 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants at a cost of 32 million rupees in 1638. The Taj stands on a raised platform (186’ x 186’) with its four corners truncated, forming an unequal octagon.

The architectural design is based upon the interlocking arabesque concept, in which each element stands on its own and perfectly integrates with the main structure. The structure also relies upon principles of self-replicating geometry and symmetry of architectural elements.

OK, so you don’t want the Taj Mahal duplicated in your new, 1,800-square-foot, four-operatory, dental facility located in a retail center next to a dry cleaning franchise. What a relief to us as designers, knowing you don’t expect us to create that level of architectural development for you! The unequal truncated octagon is always challenging.

We all resort to speaking in clichés, such as, "I don’t want the Taj Mahal," from time to time. Reliance upon clichés typically indicates an inability to articulate a concept, a process, a vision, or an outcome with specificity. Excessive use of clichés typically indicates one is campaigning for public office.

Having delivered multiple successful project outcomes to dentists over the years who uttered, "I don’t want the Taj Mahal" at some point during the process, here is what we believe they were attempting to articulate:

Project costs: I am highly concerned about the overall investment cost of my project. I do not know at this time if my practice can support a new facility and if it will ultimately prove to be a successful business decision. I need help in this area, but I am not even clear how to approach this concern, and I don’t know who or what pieces of information might be able to assist me in making this crucial decision.

Patient perception: I do not want my patients to perceive this facility as excessive, gaudy, or ostentatious. If that is their perception, it may translate to the assumption that my practice fees are excessive in order to fund the new facility. This perception will lead to a loss of existing patients-of-record and discourage any new-patient prospects from entering the practice.

Design esthetics: I want the design impact of my facility to be comfortable, appropriate, appealing, and well-crafted. I do not want a design outcome that is perceived as overly dramatic, one of a kind, of landmark status, or as some other architectural statement.

Design process: I have never worked with an architect or interior designer and do not understand that process. I am concerned that I will not be able to describe my vision for the project, and as a result, my design team will create an architectural statement of their own vision and at my expense. I am also concerned how I can justify time out of my practice schedule to participate in the design of a new facility.

It is OK if these are also your concerns, as they are very legitimate and appropriate issues for any project. It is the responsibility of your design team to address these concerns and guide you through the process.

For example, to address concerns of cost, an initial cost projection coupled with a practice income potential calculation is a great start to gauge the viability of any project endeavor. In other industries, these calculations would be default standards. In dentistry, for some reason, many dentists initiate complex design and construction projects by speculating on how much dental equipment they will purchase. Equipment purchase is a crucial component of any project, but it is rarely the driver that shapes project outcome.

Exploring, defining, and articulating your vision for a new facility beyond broad clichés will help ensure a successful outcome. So the next time you hear this response to a specific question, "Don’t worry, Doc, we got you covered! Your new office will be a turnkey, soup-to-nuts, home-run, slam-dunk, cash cow ... no problem!" pause, take a few moments, and politely ask for a cliché translator.

Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA, are owners of PDG- Practice Design Group. Located in Buda, Texas, PDG offers a full range of design and consulting services to dentists nationwide. For information, call (800) 511-7110 or visit www.practicedesigngroup.com.

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