Collaborative Rural Health Project Wins AIA Regional & Urban Design Award

LAWRENCE — A rural health initiative developed by University of Kansas alumnus Tom Trenolone, director of HDR's Great Plains studio in Omaha, Nebraska, in collaboration with the KU School of Architecture & Design has been awarded a 2021 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Regional & Urban Design Award. 

The project’s genesis came after HDR was engaged by the board of the health care system in the small farming town of Haxtun, Colorado, who were open to exploring creative solutions using environmental design as a way to not only improve the physical health of the inhabitants but revitalize the economic and social conditions of the community.  

In spring 2014, HDR approached the Health + Wellness Design graduate program in the KU architecture & design school to explore ways the physical environment can be used to support and enhance rural communities in their search for improved health care services. 

Spearheaded by Trenolone, the project launched in a Health + Wellness Design capstone studio co-taught by architecture professors Paola Sanguinetti and Kent Spreckelmeyer.   

The students began the project by studying 24 communities across the United States that have similar key characteristics to Haxtun. They determined that the local hospital and K-12 education system were some of the most crucial indicators of rural communities’ health.   

Based on this analysis, the team set out to improve and consolidate the health care facilities, focusing on the ways that clinics and classrooms, emergency rooms and gymnasiums, or cafeterias and birthing centers could become essential focal points of community life. 

The final product combines three distinct design solutions that each tackle a specific problem. First, a concept called “Master Hub” consolidated essential community resources – health care and schools – positioning them within the historic center of the city. Second, a long-term planning strategy called “Small Town Synergy” situated the improvement of the hospital and school facilities as mutually beneficial and interrelated processes. Finally, a building process called “Modular Duality” called for the construction of the buildings to use environmental technologies that uniquely fit the rural community.   

The full research report and project details were published in 2020 as Rural Resolve: Imagining the Future Health and Wellbeing of Small Communities (Tom Trenolone, editor).  

The full list of project team members:  

KU faculty  

Kent Spreckelmeyer, Paola Sanguinetti, Faria Islam   

HDR Architecture-Omaha 

Tom Trenolone, Matthew Goldsberry, Matthew Stoffel, Ian Thomas. 

KU graduate students 

Lauren Amos, John Barnthouse, Chelsea Campbell, Cole Giesler, Chinonso Ike, Rachel Keeven, Kathy Kim, Hannah Kramer, Ashley Lawrence, Chang Liu, Nicole Mater, Sarah Moser, Lizzy Nikoonamesh, Phillip Perkins, Eman Siddiqui, Mahzad Talaei, William Weiner and Dana Wellman.