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Something interesting is happening at some North Dakota dental practices. It could almost be called a movement. And it’s growing – with gutsy dentists (like those at Arch Dental, McDonald Dental Group and Missouri River Dental), Patterson Dental representatives (including territory sales rep JP McDonald and dental equipment specialist Kenton Hochhalter) and an architect leading the charge.
Chris Hawley, AIA, one of the principals of Craftwell Architecture + Construction, is at the helm of this emerging trend. He and his partners specialize in hospitality, healthcare and commercial new builds and remodels. Whether they’re building a business or home from scratch or revitalizing older downtown buildings in a small town or in one of North Dakota’s cities, he “listens” to the people and the buildings to bring out their true spirit.
“We do a ton of adaptive reuse of significant and historical buildings,” Hawley said. “We’ve done a number of things throughout the upper Midwest using buildings that are super unique and worth saving; Arch Dental was one of them. Some were good opportunities like the McDonald Dental office. All are unique.”
Hawley and his team at Craftwell Architecture + Construction have developed a deep understanding of what dental practices require and how to incorporate that in a way that reflects dentists’ individual personalities.
Designing Arch Dental
Take Arch Dental, for instance. The name reflects the pointy arches on the facade of a mid-century former Fargo chamber of commerce building that Hawley called a “jewel box.” It stands out with its clerestory windows, oversized hanging globe lights, box-like framed-out operatory space and inverted columns. It houses two businesses – Harnish’s dental practice and the ecce yoga studio of Brenda Weiler (Harnish’s wife) – partly because they wanted to practice their professions together and so that the space Harnish doesn’t yet need is functioning and creating income.
Hawley described Harnish’s previous office as tiny. “To be honest, I don’t know how he worked there for so long, and I think Derek doesn’t know either,” Hawley recalled. “The new space fits him perfectly, but if he wants to add doctors, this building is ready.”
The original building had an open office style with the center section as open space. To create privacy and acoustic separation, Hawley’s team built what he describes as a “wood box” that doesn’t ruin the original architecture of the building. “We left this beautiful floating pyramidal or waffle slab roof, and all the lighting is original,” Hawley said. “It still has an airy feeling, but has the functionality of closed operators.”
One of the many beautiful things about the building is the glass ceiling in the hallways. Five operators in the brick side wing space don’t have windows, but the spaces between are all glass. When you step out into the hallway, daylight spills in from above.
“The windows that march along the side are called clerestory windows,” Hawley explained. “They dump light into the hallways through the glass ceilings. It’s very bright and cheery. We capped that area so you’re not hearing equipment running or discussions that are happening in the operators.” The yoga studio shares bathroom space with the dental office, with access from each side, but otherwise they’re autonomous spaces with their own entrances. “In my mind they don’t collide,” Hawley said. “They have a nice relationship. So yeah, super fun.”
Designing Missouri River Dental
Hawley appreciates the importance of understanding a dental team’s daily flow, including what makes work enjoyable. “Having really nice break rooms to get away and have some privacy, grab lunch or have staff meetings separated from patients creates a holistic environment,” Hawley said. “You’re making sure you have a building that people want to go to work in. Retaining good staff requires investing in a nice office. These dentists are making that commitment with their buildings.”