I was approached by a consultant for Access to Medically Supervised Injection Sites Edmonton (AMSISE) to create a 3D physical model of a supervised injection site for visualization and public engagement purposes. The model would be featured during an upcoming news conference announcing the locations of supervised injection services in Edmonton. Furthermore, the model would be used during community engagement sessions to educate the public about the services by visualizing the site’s layout, the function of each area and the flow of users.
With the model’s primary purpose being to help facilitate discussion during community engagement sessions, it had to be designed for durability and flexibility. Durability was important to ensure the model could be handled by many people over multiple sessions. Flexibility was equally important in ensuring the model could be reconfigured to accurately reflect the different interior layouts of each proposed location.
The model also had to appear clean and simple with furnishing elements to suggest the functions of each area of service, but not be overly detailed as it would detract from the focus of getting proper feedback on the location’s functional qualities.
The concept of supervised injection services carries controversy with socio-political issues being brought to the forefront. Therefore, the idea of a low-key, low-tech 3D model helps to move the discussion forward by presenting the system and functions of supervised injection services in a neutral, non-partisan manner. Stakeholders can learn how the services work, make recommendations and form personal opinions about the initiative after engaging with the model.
Research and Discovery
Vancouver’s Insite is the prime example of a successful supervised injection service in Canada. It was vital to understand how Insite functioned and what can be adapted or improved for Edmonton’s proposed locations. My consultant provided valuable anecdotes from her visit to Insite, and shared photos of the experience to help me craft the model.
The proposed supervised injection services have three main service areas: an intake room, an injection room, and a monitoring room. It was important to distinguish them through different room sizes and furnishings while building the 3D model. Furthermore, the proposed locations in Edmonton are embedded inside existing host agencies that serve the vulnerable and homeless population, which was taken into consideration to ensure the model did not appear to be a standalone service.
I conducted brief research into architectural model crafting to get an appropriate scale for showcasing interiors. I decided on the scale of 1:24 because it accommodated the moving of furnishing pieces within the model and allowed for easy transport between public engagement sessions. I also researched furnishings and ergonomics in health environments to ensure the crafted pieces reflected standards (for example, a sink without a cabinet underneath to accommodate wheelchair users).
The 3D model is built from foam board and mat board. The materials were selected for being easy to work with and for their neutral appearance – clean look, suggestive but not prescriptive, blank canvas for stakeholders to visualize their preferences.
Each room was built on a separate platform so the overall model could be rearranged to reflect each proposed location’s interior configuration. It also allowed each room to be brought into focus during public engagement as participants could walk through the room from all angles. Finally, the rooms had removable walls so they could switch between a solid wall or a doorway wall, maximizing the model’s flexibility of testing different ideas on traffic flow and furnishing placement.
The injection room service area was the main focus of the model, since it is a unique offering at these locations and would generate the most need for education and discussion. I focused on how users would use the injection stations and crafted them to resemble recognizable furniture such as desks, giving it the feeling of personal space and privacy. The full-length mirror is an important component because it reflects the user’s condition to the supervising nurse, who sits across from the injection stations.
Other pieces like the nurse station and sink helped promote cleanliness and safety, which are key to changing misconceptions about supervised injection services. Ergonomics played a role by influencing the furnishing pieces, considering their functions and how they’d be used, which brought a humanizing factor to the space.
Through consultation, I carried the idea of human connection into the design of furnishing pieces for the intake and monitoring rooms. The furniture suggests a safe and welcoming environment that connects users to so-called “wrap-around services” – services that address housing needs, employment opportunities, health care and peer/outreach support. For example, the corner seating arrangement suggests an intimate conversation between two parties, like one-to-one peer support; the coffee table area suggests connecting with community and establishing relationships with others. These furnishing pieces reinforce the concept of integrated supervised injection services that can provide much-needed services benefitting users’ physical, emotional and mental health.
The news conference was heavily covered by local media outlets, with many journalists using photos of the 3D model to supplement their story. This helped AMSISE gain awareness for their work in laying the foundation for supervised injection services. The news coverage was mainly neutral or positive in presenting the sites as an alternative healthcare resource, which helps in building support for the project.
AMSISE was also pleased with the result. After researching and engaging with stakeholders to create the foundation of the services over the last 5 years, the 3D model helped to validate their hard work and efforts in seeing their research come to life. They view it as another tool in public engagement, assisting in gathering feedback to improve accessibility and functionality of the services.
Due to the success of the model, I was asked to design supplementary communication documents to be used during public engagement and education sessions. The documents listed services offered through each host organization or facility, and showcased how the supervised injection services fit into the healthcare model of wrap-around services. The documents were used in discussions with community stakeholders, including politicians and the police service.