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Wayne and I at the First Annual Health Care Interior Design Symposium.

I first met Wayne Ruga almost 30 years ago at a reception at the Western Merchandise Mart in San Francisco.

I was an associate editor at Contract magazine.  He was a healthcare architect who told me he was going to start a healthcare design symposium.

"Send me some information on it," I said, which is the standard response of most editors to people they don't know who want them to write about something.

Not only did Wayne send me information, but he also invited me to be on the Advisory Council for the Symposium on Healthcare Interior Design and be the emcee for the first symposium, which was held in 1988 at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA.

Birth of the Healthcare Design Industry

With the launch of the Symposium, Wayne helped establish the healthcare design industry by bringing together healthcare designers, product manufacturers, and healthcare professionals. For many, it was an "ah ha" moment. They'd found people who shared their passion.

Wayne was also skilled at finding innovative, interesting people and ideas.  Through the Symposium, Wayne introduced us to Planetree, Easy Street rehab environments, Roger Ulrich's work, labyrinths, healing environments, and much more.

Along with a group of healthcare design thought leaders who served on the Symposium's Advisory Board, Wayne founded the nonprofit Center for Health Design in 1993. I was one of the founding board members of The Center.

The Symposium continued to grow as an event and was sold to Imark Communications so The Center's small staff could spend more time on its advocacy efforts instead of on producing a conference. The organization's focus turned to research about how the design of the physical environment can impact outcomes.

Wayne's decision to pursue a Ph.D. was the main catalyst for his departure from The Center in early 1999. He moved to Manchester, England, and began his studies.

What's Wayne Doing Now?

I caught up with Wayne last month at NeoCon in Chicago. While earning his Ph.D. from Manchester Metropolitan University, Wayne started the Caritas Project, which "seeks to transform the future of health and healthcare delivery through the development of strategies and technologies that produce generative environments."

He also met and married a woman from Manchester, which is why he's still living there.

Over the past 15 years or so, Wayne has been working with a select few individuals and companies to guide and mentor them on the principles of Generative Space. He's also produced several leadership events in connection with this work and is still involved in the Healthcare Facilities Symposium -- the descendant of his original Symposium.

Although what he started 30 years ago has indeed changed the healthcare design world, Wayne is not done yet. He believes the best way to do that is to create unique learning experiences that bring people together.

It will be interesting to see what he comes up with next.

Want More Wayne?

Check out these articles and resources:

"Generative Space," blog post by B.J. Miller, February 2015.

"Interview with Wayne Ruga on Success With Generative Space Design," Research Design Connections, 2012.

"Evolving Spaces," learning module on IIDA Website.

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Leave a comment

Wayne Ruga

7 years ago

I am grateful for
your kind
words -

Jessica Gutierrez-Rodriguez

7 years ago

Wonderful article, Sara! Thanks for writing and sharing.

Dana Dubbs

7 years ago

Hi Sara,

I always enjoy your trips down memory lane. Funny how things turn out. One of the golf courses at the La Costa (now, the Omni) Resort & Spa is my "backyard".

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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