While designing a 10-story, multi-specialty hospital for
the University of California, San Diego’s health system,
Cannon Design partnered with Shield Casework and
Modular Services Company to turn an institutional
medical product, the patient headwall, into an
architectural element that is as functional as it is
Cutting-edge technology is crucial in a competitive
healthcare landscape, but its infrastructure conflicts with
optimum healing environments. Architectural headwalls
consolidate medical functions around patient beds to
improve the treatment experience.
The team used evidence-based design research and
prototyping to house the room’s technology within a
single element, the innovative canopy. The headwall’s
organic, flowing aesthetic softens the space and evokes a
more hospitable feel than headwalls that simply glorify
electrical and gas outlets. The canopy grounds the room,
adding an envelope of warmth through ambient light.
This compound, curved design was complicated to
execute. Hundreds of feet of data, electrical, oxygen,
vacuum and other medical cables had to fit in a compact,
functional hub while meeting stringent standards for
cleaning and use. The headwall is inherently clean:
Shield’s thermoformed solid surface fabrication clads
metal framework, reducing the risk of infection down to
the sloped outlet covers (creating a completely
An intensive prototyping process tested the design with
hospital staff and other stakeholders. The original
prototype milled in Styrofoam revealed initial issues with
detailing and materials. A second laminate prototype
tested the curved corners, bed transition recess, and
reveals. It failed, stalling progress and driving up cost.
Shield and Modular were brought in to work through the
complex build to meet the budget and design intent
using solid surface instead.
The headwall merges the strongest tenets of evidence-
based design with proven function. It merges
architecture, technology and care workflow into one
pioneering design. The team will deliver 242 headwalls
to the hospital in 2015.
Stephen Hopkins blends a unique background of business and design with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master of business administration.
Hopkins expanded his design background by launching the Innovation Lab at Dimensional Innovations,
an award-winning product design studio. Designing in multiple markets during his time as Director of Innovation, his successful work included launching products for Fortune 500 companies and unleashing the innovative solid surface healthcare company, Shield Casework. Prior to that, he worked for several architecture and design firms, including Populous and Ateliers Jean Nouvel.
Recently featured in Fast Company magazine for his industry-leading commentary on the future of the architectural practice, Stephen has also been published in Becker’s Hospital Review for his work on the hospital of the future. In 2013, he was named one of Kansas City’s Forty Under 40 leaders by Ingram’s Magazine.
Winner of an international Consumer Arts Interactive Award and an International Design Gold Medal in the sustainable product category, Stephen has been LEED accredited since 2005 and his credentials include AIA, NCARB and IDSA. He received his master’s degree in business administration in 2013, allowing him to fully leverage his creative background with a strategic business approach.