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MI2 MedStar Institute for Innovation, Washington, DC

January 2017
EDAC Advocate Firm Project
Rendering of Innovation Lab, Huelat Davis Healing Design, 2015

Huelat Davis

Firm's role on the project:  Planning, Programming, Architecture, Design, Interiors


EBD Goal 

To develop a space that would act as a branding space that embodies MI2’s mantra to “think differently” and would also serve as an incubator for new ideas. 



MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) is a broad innovation infrastructure that supports 30,000 associates and 6,000 affiliated physicians. MI2 wanted to create a place where “innovation” could support creativity and “out-of-the-box thinking” for healthcare leaders within the MedStar system. The result is an “Innovation Lab” within MI2 that advances health through innovation and is part of an interior remodel project.


Today, if a healthcare system does not have an “Innovation Institute” or “Center for Innovation” somewhere in its organizational landscape, it risks appearing to be behind the curve and lacking sufficient long-term focus. The challenge was to explore what an innovation center within a healthcare system actually does. Because these centers are relatively new, they can perform many functions, alone or in combination with others. Relevant and credible literature suggested many different potential roles, all of which are focused on advancing health through innovation. They include:

  • Commercializing new devices, software, diagnostics, and therapeutics created by employees

  • Sponsoring and facilitating performance improvement innovation in the processes of care

  • Piloting and incubating projects for new care delivery systems and business models

  • Catalyzing a culture for innovation across the organization

  • Serving as an entry portal for startups to access and navigate the broader healthcare system

  • Identifying, setting up, and incubating new endeavor domains for the organization

  • Consulting with operational units to find new approaches to solving difficult problems

One way to think about these innovation centers is as internal startups embedded within the larger organization, one that serves as an attractor for the high-energy, future-focused, and “change-the-world” optimism that pervades startup culture.

With this in mind, the greatest challenge was to identify a creative philosophy and approach to the design that would work for a great diversity of users and provide a quiet, meditative, and mindful space while supporting collaboration, networking, and brainstorming.


The design solution is a “stage set” for critical thinking and visionary work. The offices are gathering spaces that spark creativity and support collaboration for top thinkers in healthcare delivery. MI2 consists of two wings connected by a light-filled atrium. The wings house workspaces to cocoon and allow ideas to percolate. At the heart of the center the Innovation Lab features flexible collaboration spaces and provides a setting for impromptu conversations to transition into brainstorming sessions and informal meetings where ideas can solidify.

Furnishings form the anchor for creativity within this environment. Flexibility is the catchphrase of the creative environment that desires to flex between bursts of collaboration and quiet periods of cocooning. These time-tested furnishings can be stacked, folded, bent, rearranged, or nested. Chairs can serve many purposes. Rather than forcefully scripting how work should be performed, this office allows members to create their own unique stage set for each act of the performance.

Nature has restorative effects such as lowering blood pressure, contributing to a positive emotional state, lowering levels of stress hormones, and boosting energy. This new space features full-spectrum light and energetic colors to encourage movement and inspire fresh thinking. Carefully placed colors form wayfinding cues and become markers of place, with natural, organic patterned carpet throughout the space. 


Findings from the literature include:
  • The health benefits of biophilia
  • Research and design principles for mindfulness
  • Findings from the neurosciences about quality of place
  • Nature and benefits of innovation
  • Collaboration models
  • Creative experience

A post-occupancy evaluation (POE) will be conducted in Fall 2016 and findings will be published.

While The Center believes that the information in this resource is valid, it has not fact-checked the information or tested any findings. The Center disclaims any warranties, expressed or implied, regarding this content.