Mantel Ortho Clinic

  • area / size 4,000 sqft
  • Completed 2020
  • Johnsen Schmaling Architects used greenery and sophistication to complete the Mantel Ortho Clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    Located at the outskirts of Cedarburg, a rural town 30 miles north of Milwaukee, this small orthodontics clinic revisits the exhausted typology of conventional medical offices and their introvert, fluorescent-lit ambience. The client, a young orthodontist, decided to relocate her rapidly growing practice to a new state-of-the-art facility on an empty lot at the threshold between town and countryside. The project’s success relies on an architecture that echoes its pastoral setting while avoiding bucolic nostalgia – a crisp, precisely detailed building conveying the ethos of the orthodontist’s own professional work: uncompromising purity, flawless efficiency, and rigorous precision.

    Keeping a deliberately minimal profile to reduce its visual impact on the existing wall of mature trees along the site’s eastern edge, the building is composed of two complementary forms, their volumetric overlap visually moderating the perceived length of the building. The programmatic heart of the clinic – a spacious, open treatment bay served by a central lab and sterilization room – occupies a light-gray volume that brackets a low-slung, dark-clad base volume, where the reception, waiting room, and other support spaces are located. A continuous roof perimeter beam embraces a grouping of exterior spaces carved out of the base volume: a trellised forecourt, a covered entry walk, and a small xeriscaped courtyard that connects to the waiting room inside. A row of thin aluminum fins supports the roof plane and acts as a brise-soleil that screens the generously glazed entry area from the afternoon sun.

    Along the road, the light-gray volume protrudes from the charcoal base, framing a long, striated green wall whose animated, polychromatic texture sets a playful contrast to the building’s otherwise smooth and muted surfaces. Alluding to the banded pattern of adjoining farm fields, the green wall acts as an abstract billboard, a deliberately artificial and somewhat wistful vestige of the area’s vanishing agricultural past.

    Inside, a wood-slatted ceiling plane guides patients to the reception desk and cradles the adjacent, light-flooded waiting room overlooking the entry courtyard. Optimized procedural flow strategies informed the clinic’s overall program layout, with a central circulation spine connecting to the five treatment stations in the open-bay operatory, a tall space with exposed roof beams and a glass curtainwall that frames generous views from the clinic’s treatment areas into a small meadow of native grasses. The curtainwall rests on a continuous, built-in bench that runs the entire length of the open-bay operatory and offers parents a casual place to sit in proximity to their children during treatment.

    Design: Johnsen Schmaling Architects
    Photography: courtesy of Johnsen Schmaling Architects