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Designing Comforting Spaces in Uncomfortable Places

In her semester internship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Endicott College interior architecture major Samantha Stewart ’24 is designing creative and calming spaces for patients.
In her semester internship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, interior architecture major and psychology minor Samantha Stewart ’24 is designing creative and calming spaces for patients.
By: Madison Schulman

When Samantha Stewart ’24 sits down at her computer to design a new space for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, one of the first aspects that comes to mind is color—hues of paints for walls, natural materials for furniture, and textiles for floors.

For the interior architecture major and psychology minor, color represents a different mood and feeling, and Stewart realizes her important role in creating and shaping the environment of a hospital and the atmosphere within it.

“I’ve always been interested in how design can affect one’s brain, and how a person can feel in a space,” said Stewart. “I’ve wanted to do health care design to help people in what’s considered a very scary environment. Most people don’t enjoy going to hospitals and medical buildings, so I want to try to make the space more comfortable for them.”

After completing internships in residential and retail design companies, Stewart realized that she wasn’t inspired by these settings. With her interest in psychology and how surroundings and other variables can affect mood, Stewart decided to pursue an internship at a healthcare firm.

“After starting my freshman year, I realized I didn’t want to just do residential,” she said. “During junior year, we did healthcare design as our studio project, and I’ve just loved it ever since. I knew I wanted to go into that field.”

With the help of Kevin Renz, Associate Dean of Architectural and Design Studies, and a connection with an Endicott alum at Dana-Farber, Stewart secured a position as an Architectural Intern for the fall.

In Boston’s renowned Longwood Medical Area—home to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and numerous other institutions—Stewart works on space planning drawings for departments in the building that need to be moved and creates color-coded plans. She also works on construction document sets, in which she labels furniture, making it easier to read for the construction process. 

When designing, Stewart uses a calming mix of blues and greens, a palette that can already be found throughout the hospital. While she does use red for important signs, she utilizes these colors and various natural materials to create a serene effect for patients.

Working with Dana-Farber’s in-house interior architecture team, Stewart has also learned the difference between designing for your own workplace instead of for a typical client.

“It’s cool to be in-house because it’s helpful to constantly go back to the hospitals to measure things out,” said Stewart. “It’s definitely more helpful because other architecture firms might not be right next door to the site location.”

Stewart’s supervisors have helped her every step of the way, reviewing and giving feedback on projects. Through this, she has learned to pay even more attention to detail and double-check her work.

Her studio design courses at Endicott were helpful in preparing her for this internship because she learned multiple design programs—and every design firm does things differently. So, it was beneficial to obtain skills in them all, she noted.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do some of it without the base knowledge that I learned at Endicott,” said Stewart.

Working for Dana-Farber has also been rewarding, she explained, as its employees—even the in-house design team—are there to support patients living with and overcoming cancer.

“They’re here to focus on their patients and just make the best experience for everybody,” she said.

With graduation on the horizon, Stewart is now deciding whether to pursue a master’s degree at the Nest or enter the workforce immediately. Either way, she knows her internships have set her up for success.

“Having these experiences and background in design work will definitely help in the future,” she said. “It's just a great company to work for. It was the best decision that I could have made.”