2021 Rising Star: Dehne Sibbernsen

Current projects: I’m co-leading the interior design of the Cambridge Street Project at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. This two-phase, 1.8 million-square-foot comprehensive center for cardiovascular and oncological care serves both inpatient and outpatient populations and is slated to open in 2027 and 2030. It aims to be among the first carbon-neutral/net-zero hospitals in the United States.

Dream project: The Cambridge Street Project at Massachusetts General Hospital is my dream project. Its central purpose is to bring people together, create community, and enhance our collective humanity.

Sources of inspiration: I’m fascinated by human narratives and the universal truths that unite us as citizens of a global society. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn, challenge, and expand our world view and understanding of each other. There’s so much we can glean if we prioritize deepening our connections on both a human and an emotional level. I believe design is applied empathy—it’s emotional intelligence made visible, which is the foundation of our field. For me, it’s my personal approach to life.

Best advice you’ve received: Being a designer is first and foremost a privilege. It’s our civic duty to use our creative medium as a platform to advocate for societal and systemic change, leading to a better future for all. Just as healthcare and education are undeniable human rights, so too is design.

Trends you’re tracking: We must move away from privileging the visual over other sensory intelligences. We perceive the world through all five senses, working together. Not only is this “equitable by design,” but it also enriches our shared human experience of the spaces we craft as something that can be felt viscerally, not just perceived visually.

Memorable pandemic moment: The immense loss and suffering collectively shouldered over the past year and a half underscore the fragility and temporality of life. While the pandemic upended our lives, it revealed what is truly essential. Reframing this loss as a moment for growth and change, I restructured my life to prioritize slowness and simplicity.

Your industry crystal ball says: With the rising costs of healthcare and scarcity of resources, the system requires balance without sacrificing the human elements within the space. Four key topics come to mind that our field will need to consider when designing spaces for healing:

  • Medical education and training must be reformed. Societal investment in the education of our healthcare providers is a moral imperative. It benefits and advances the society. If clinicians feel cared for, they will take better care of others.
  • Technology should be backgrounded, not foregrounded. Adding more screens and apps is not the answer. Advancing AI technologies to streamline tasks allows clinicians to focus on strengthening the relationships with their patients. It’s why they became clinicians.
  • Precision diagnosis and personalized care through advances in genomics will become more prevalent. In healthcare, one size doesn’t fit all.
  • “Do no planetary harm” will become the mantra, with a focus on eradicating the environmental impact of medical waste.

Deal Storm
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