Designing for Good: Introducing Amanda Martocchio …

 

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From left, Cameron Cole Carcelen, Amanda Martocchio and Shaun Gotterbarn.

As we shared with all of you earlier, Clinica Verde is partnering with the Ministry of Health of Nicaragua to redesign two of their rural health posts (puestos de salud). The broader hope is that the work we do together can serve as a prototype to expand throughout the country’s network of over 1,000 rural health posts. It’s a big and exciting endeavor, and we’re working thoughtfully through every step, along with our partners at the Ministry and the communities we serve.

We’re very excited to introduce you to the architect who is leading this project: Amanda Martocchio, with her team at Amanda Martocchio Architecure + Design. We asked Amanda to share a little bit about herself and her approach to the work with Clinica Verde:

First, tell us a little bit about your history and Amanda Martocchio Architecture + Design.

Amanda: I grew up in Colorado, the daughter of a philosopher whose academic engagement centered on international development ethics, with particular interest in Central and Latin America. Childhood dinners included discussions about the importance of aiding developing communities from within rather than from without.

With a love for drawing, my personal academic interests turned to architecture, receiving degrees from Cornell (B. Arch) and Harvard (M. Arch). Professional life as an architect began in NYC working on large-scale institutional and commercial buildings, including the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and the Stanford Art Museum Renovation.

When my first child was born with a brain injury and developmental delays, it was clear that my former work place would not be consistent with the work-life balance I would need, so, rather than returning to the firm, Ennead, I started my own practice in 1995, renovating the apartments of my husband’s colleagues in my closet-sized home-office. I soon established the office of Amanda Martocchio Architecture + Design, LLC (AMA+D) in Manhattan’s Union Square Park, later relocating to Connecticut where the architecture and interior design firm has thrived, earning numerous awards for residential projects and being awarded the prestigious Connecticut AIA Emerging Architectural Firm Award.

AMA+D creates designs that are inspired by the project site and the ideas that emerge from an ongoing dialogue with our clients. Our approach is rooted in simplicity and craft. We design environments in which the occupants experience wellbeing due to the prevalence of natural materials, an abundance of daylight, and a connection to the outdoors. Our goal of contributing to a sustainable future is evidenced by a commitment to resource preservation, innovative technologies and the latest developments in building science. An AMA+D-designed home has recently qualified for LEED certification, requiring rigorous standards of energy efficiency and thermal performance.

Shaun Gotterbarn and Cameron Cole Carcelen are members of my studio who will participate on the design team for the Puestos de Salud. Cameron, who has lived in Ecuador and is married to an Ecuadorian, will be our translator, and will be joining me during our visit to Boaco in November.

What about the Clinica Verde project attracted you?

Our clients, for whom we design single-family homes, are well-educated and affluent. In the U.S. they have been referred to as the “1%”. While we are fortunate to have the opportunity to design environments that enhance the lives of their occupants, we are eager to turn our design thinking into making a difference in the lives of many who have much less.

I have been aware of Clinica Verde since it was just an idea in the mind of my cousin, Susan Dix Lyons. I have watched as the goal of supporting maternal and infant healthcare in rural Nicaragua evolved from concept into built clinic. As a mother of a child with a chronic illness, I am all too aware of how lucky we have been to have received outstanding medical care from the time of her infancy. I am personally moved by the challenges overcome by mothers in poor regions of Boaco to access healthcare for their infants.

As architects, we have been thinking about and implementing sustainable building practices into our architectural design practice for some time. We look forward to expanding this mindset and experience to a very different environment, community and building tradition.

Clinica Verde’s mission is to provide community-based healthcare where members of the community are encouraged to take responsibility for and pride in their own and their children’s preventative health. The design solution for the individual puestos will likewise be community-based. We will be guided by the local users’ needs, cultural biases, and building methods, so that members of the community will take pride in the puestos as their own.

We will be guided by the local users’ needs, cultural biases, and building methods, so that members of the community will take pride in the puestos as their own.”

Share a little bit about your approach to collecting information about the community and the puestos, and how that informs your design.

We were first introduced to Clinica Verde, its mission and history by (Founding Board member and development consultant) Peter Stanley and Susan. With the help of Clinica Verde General Manager Rafael Morales and Program Coordinator Mary Elizabeth Flores, their “feet on the ground” support, we are compiling data about the physical characteristics of the puesto sites, documenting them through photographs, map-making, and digital information. During our upcoming visit to Boaco and the clinic, we hope to observe, first hand, the environment and meet with local citizens so that we can better understand the community for which we are designing these public buildings.

We talk a lot about using human-centered design at Clinica Verde, and I know that the culture of charrettes that designers use is similar. Can you address those processes and any parallels?

Human-centered design is just that. As designers, the success of our work is measured by whether it meets the needs and aspirations of the people for whom we are designing. Cameron and I will be visiting Boaco for the first time in a couple of weeks, and although our visit will be short, it will be important for us to observe and to interact with the local mothers, families and children for whom the puestos will be designed. With a greater understanding of what “matters” to the user, and with studied knowledge of the physical conditions of the Boaco sites, we will define the design opportunities and constraints. During initial design we will “throw out” various approaches, without letting ourselves fall in love with any single idea at the outset. We will rapidly develop multiple alternative approaches and test them with the users before settling on a preferred direction.

What do you see as the greatest challenge to this project?

The greatest challenge will be to obtain a level of understanding of the local people from our distance, both physical and experiential. We not only will need to empathize with the people who will be using the puestos for them to be successful, but we will need to engage them in the process, so that they become agents of the project and shareholders in its success.

What’s your greatest hope for this project?

My hope for the project is to expand the mission of Clinica Verde by designing local health outposts within the fabric of the communities that are vital and sustainable, and that community members view them as their own.

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