MASS Design Group Celebrates the Opening of the Family Health Center on Virginia in North Texas, Its Inaugural U.S. Healthcare Project

Family Health Center on Virginia in North Texas. © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

MASS Designed its First U.S.-Based Community Health Center to Deliver Comprehensive Primary Health and Community Care to Patients and Families 

BOSTON, Jan. 26, 2021 -- MASS Design Group, a design collective dedicated to delivering architecture that promotes justice and human dignity, celebrated the completion of the Family Health Center on Virginia in McKinney, Texas. Located in North Texas’s Collin County, the 25,000-square-foot community health center is a patient-centered medical home serving children, families, and individuals, regardless of their ability to pay. The health center is part of a partnership led by the North Texas Family Health Foundation to expand healthcare access and improve health and wellness outcomes and health equity in McKinney and throughout North Texas. Design architects of more than a dozen medical facilities and labs across the globe, this is MASS Design Group’s first U.S.-designed medical facility.

“As a leading designer of a patient and family-centered health institutions around the globe, we are honored to open this purpose-built community health center with our partners at North Texas Family Health Foundation, advancing healthcare and quality of life for North Texas patients and their families,” said Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “As healthcare deinstitutionalizes and moves away from sterile and clinical environments, we designed a medical home with many medical services in one place for community access. The medical home is designed for physical and emotional healing, with spaces designed to welcome, comfort, and empower all of us as co-collaborators in personal care and wellbeing.

Leading design innovations in healthcare facilities with an emphasis on healing and justice around the globe, MASS was engaged to support the innovative healthcare approach that the North Texas Family Health Foundation and Healthy Communities for Independent Financial initiated.

“The impact of the family health center will extend beyond healthcare, as access to healthcare strengthens the community in so many ways,” said Kate Perry, Senior Director for Healthy Communities for Independent Financial. “This is an important investment in our community; therefore, the design and construction of the building were carefully considered. We wanted a design conveying a welcoming feeling for families and one that provides healthcare practitioners and patients with lots of interior light and windows allowing views of natural spaces outside.” 

The center is a designated Federally Qualified Health Center. This designation is considered to be a measure of excellence in primary care infrastructure. Healthcare services include:  

  • Pediatrics, family medicine, behavioral health counseling and obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN)
  • Dental cleanings, exams, extractions, fillings, sealants, X-rays, and specialist referrals 
  • Health education, community outreach, and linking patients to critical basic resources, including social services, transportation, and nutritious food. 

In addition to primary medical, behavioral, and dental care services, the center houses community-oriented training programs for medical students, and on-site programs that link patients to key resources. MASS met with project partners, community members, and healthcare providers to understand how the design can best meet the needs of all stakeholders. 

Externally, the health center is designed to look like buildings in a residential neighborhood. The building has a traditional gable roof, repeated to create a village, suggesting that multiple services and forms of care and people exist there. 

The design concept mimics traditional Texan breezeway houses, or “Dogtrot houses,” which are characterized by multiple buildings connected by a breezeway and common roof. The center has distinct buildings for each service, allowing visitors to experience the services individually while remaining united through shared social spaces. The facade uses white brick, a staple in Texan building materials, due to the clay-soil across the state. This material is recognizable across Texas and its “Brick Belt,” which includes McKinney, used in everything from homes to schools. 

Family Health Center Design 

The health center brings together essential healing and care components including clinical, community, and exam space. While modern medical facilities always offer clinical and exam space, community space, which is often overlooked, was also prioritized. The design was intended to feel welcoming and familiar like a community center. To deinstitutionalize this building, MASS broke down the large volume of the overall clinic to a human scale.

A critical component of the center is the purposeful design of designated pods for primary care, dental, staff, and education zones, allowing for more efficient use of space and care of patients:

  • Clinical: Supports team-based care and designated space for medical staff to work and review patients’ information and test results. Providing adequate and comfortable space designed to support the medical staff is essential to help ensure continuity of care to patients. 
  • Integration of Services: the design of the facility allows for better integration of care among services lines, including that of primary medical and behavioral health – making care more accessible and reducing stigma.
  • Community: Creating spaces similar to that found in a home at a medical facility is known to reduce tension, reduce perceptions of wait times, and increase perceptions of experience satisfaction. The community spaces include a series of waiting and reception areas modeled after the home – places to dine, work, relax, and play. Less clinical spaces in medical facilities have been shown to reduce anxiety for patients and their loved ones.  
  • Exam: The exam room is where patients interact with medical professionals, ranging from physicians and dentists to counselors. The new design of the spaces enables patients to be partners with their medical professionals on their care. The North Texas Family Health Foundation partnered with Herman Miller and WRG, a member of Herman Miller’s Certified Dealer network to design and furnish the facility to ensure health and productivity were kept in mind. 

The Family Health Center on Virginia was built in East McKinney, where residents’ incomes are half that of West McKinney residents’ median income. This socioeconomic difference has led to disparities in health outcomes and access to care. According to studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, significant disparities exist between health and dental care in East McKinney compared to other areas. The study showed that 43 percent of adults in East McKinney lack health insurance, are twice as likely to have diabetes (than other McKinney residents) and more than half (56%) have not had dental care in the past year. Fewer care facilities exist in North Texas so the Family Health Center will also serve area residents in a 60-mile radius. 

“We’ve found that designing to heal is on the forefront of physicians' minds, from Rwanda to Texas,” said David Saladik, MASS Senior Principal and Design Director. “Medical environments bring us face-to-face with life and death, with our place in the world, and they are in desperate need of a redesign. It has been an honor to work in McKinney, a place undergoing immense growth and transition; it's inspiring to see the forward-looking approach of this community to provide healthcare to everyone, especially the most vulnerable. It signals a hopeful future for the health of the city.”

As the design architects, MASS worked with partners including Community Healthcare Center, Independent Financial, SmithGroup, Kimley Horn, L.A. Fuess Partners, Cross Engineering Consultants, Rogers-O’Brien Construction, KDC Real Estate Development & Investments, CitySquare, and the City of McKinney. The project would not be possible without significant commitments from individuals and organizations across the community including the City of McKinney, Independent Financial, Baylor Scott & White Health, Medical City, Collin County, Encore Wire, Emmerson Automation Solutions, and Communities Foundation of Texas. Project partners worked toward a fundraising goal of $10 million.  

About MASS Design Group: 

MASS, a Model of Architecture for Society, Design Group was founded in 2008 as a non-profit organization motivated by an idea for a different way of practice. MASS grew to include many colleagues and contributors who worked together to design and build the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, a project of Partners In Health and the Rwandan Ministry of Health. Since then, the organization has grown to a team of 140 architects, landscape architects, engineers, builders, furniture designers, writers, filmmakers, and researchers representing 20 countries across the globe. MASS operates design labs including the Restorative Justice Design Lab in Boston; Sustainable Native Communities Design Lab in Sante Fe, N.M.; and the Food Systems and Fringe Cities Lab in Hudson Valley, N.Y.

About the North Texas Family Health Foundation:

The North Texas Family Health Foundation is a private, regional foundation that works to build stronger, healthier communities through strategic public-private partnerships focused on sustainable solutions. The Foundation is led by a Board of Trustees that handles strategic and fiduciary oversight to advance its mission and meet its goals of combining efforts, sharing knowledge and financial resources across sectors (public, private and non-profit), governments (state and local), and individual donors to increase access to healthcare.

Background on Community Health Centers (CHCs): 

CHS’s were community centers that evolved to provide affordable and comprehensive preventive and primary care services, including medical, dental, and behavioral support services. CHCs are often located in areas where no major medical facilities exist and tackle the root causes of poor health – poverty, lack of education, lack of access to healthy food, and lack of opportunity. CHCs serve more than 29 million Americans yearly with increased demand and growth (National Association for Community Health Centers). CHCs approach health holistically, treating the individual, promoting and positively impacting community health, operating as a sustainable and replicable care model.

Project Credits:

Project: Family Health Center on Virginia
Client: North Texas Family Health Foundation
Principal Design Architect: MASS Design Group 
Design Assistance:  SmithGroup and Corgan 
Architect of Record: SmithGroup
MEP Engineer: SmithGroup
Interior Architect/Designer: SmithGroup
Furniture Designer: WRG
Interior Furniture: Herman Miller
Structural Engineer: L.A. Fuess
Civil Engineer: Cross Engineering
Landscape Architecture: Kimley-Horn
Lighting: SmithGroup
Interior Furniture: Herman Miller
Contractor: Rogers-O'Brien Construction
Additional Contributors (if applicable): KDC                  
Project Size: 25,000 square feet
Cost: $10M