Architecture Feature Article: April 2022

Building exterior while snowing


The design of Northstar Dermatology’s new building in North Richland Hills, Texas is unique to say the least. Variations in brick angles changing around the building, contrasting metal lines outlining shapes on the facade, and climbing “shadow boxes” behind the windows create what could be described as a total optical illusion. For us, it’s a visual delight. As with any modern masterpiece, there is method behind the madness. We were honored to have AN.ONYMOUS architecture, based in Los Angeles, CA and Columbus, OH design the building. Founded by Iman Ansari and Marta Nowak, AN.ONYMOUS design focuses on speculative approaches towards architecture and urbanism. Their projects have been published exhibited in various international venues, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. AN.ONYMOUS is currently a design consultant for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.1


Northstar Dermatology’s building is only the first of three buildings on the three-acre site that will make up the “Northstar Medical Campus.” The three buildings will surround a beautifully landscaped public plaza and will be home to other medical specialties. Additionally, the exterior elevations of the two future buildings will be similar in concept and flow together to create a cohesive design.

So, what is the exterior design anyways?

AN.ONYMOUS describes:

“The facades, considered merely as a form of orthographic representation, are black and white oblique drawings of the buildings themselves, using control joints as lines, the brick-veneer walls as surfaces, and the “shadow” EIFS areas as openings or cut-outs. The thin brick system, used with varied stacked and running bond patterns in horizontal and diagonal arrangements, conform to the drawn projections on the facades, while exposing the symbolic quality of the material as a non-brick—a tiling system that only signifies brick. In this way, the exterior facades function as two-dimensional surfaces wrapped around building shells that attempt to represent, but never fully correspond to, the logic of the interior. In doing so, the project aims to reveal the disjunction between the interior and the exterior, the structure and the skin.”2

Rendering of Northstar Medical Campus from AN.ONYMOUS


The interior space of Northstar Dermatology was designed with efficiency in mind (one of Northstar’s company values). “The floor plan was developed through a series of agent-based computer simulations in order to synchronize the circulation with the schedule and pattern of activities, maximize efficiency and minimize unwanted obstructions or interactions.” Of note, Northstar Dermatology is the first building designed from a computer-generated circulation study to be fully constructed.

Transparency, another of Northstar Dermatology’s company values, is apparent through the design as well. The central doctor offices are without doors and look out into the nurse stations for clear communication. The medical assistants have a clear view of the exam rooms from their station as well. From the front door, patients can see straight through the heart of the office to the very back of the clinic. Even the manager’s centrally located office has a window to the reception area for total visibility.

The interior finishes are also intentionally designed. For example, floor tile selections subconsciously distinguish patient spaces (dark tile) from the staff spaces (light tile). Further, the flooring tile isn’t just “flooring tile.” The tiles fold and wrap up the hallway walls at an angle for a unique “envelope effect.” When you walk into the clinic, there are a few noticeably cool features as well. The reception desk is anything but a typical reception desk. A three-dimensional piece of artwork more appropriately describes the custom designed woodwork which serves the front office staff. Behind the reception desk stands another optical illusion – a peculiar film applied to a glass wall makes one question if they are looking through glass, or looking at a reflection – or maybe both simultaneously. At every turn in the clinic there is something to admire.

Building 2 Circulation Diagram, Northstar Medical Campus. The red represents the movement of doctors, blue the staff, and yellow the patients.


Throughout the design and build process, some questioned and critiqued with comments like, “this isn’t practical” or “this can’t be done.” Our response – “Can’t be done? Or hasn’t yet been done?” The design was meant to be different, to be unexpected, and to push the limits. We feel lucky to have witnessed the creativity and passion of our design team, as well as the craftmanship that brought the design to life.

Love the design? Build your own model of Northstar Dermatology’s building with this Cut & Glue model by AN.ONYMOUS. Snap a photo and tag @an.onymous on Instagram to share your creation!


Design Architect: AN.ONYMOUS
Design Team: Iman Ansari, Marta Nowak, Gesthimani Roumpani, Maya Chandler, Chun-hua Chiu, Tingji Gavin Guo, Yanrong Yan, Maxi Spina, Luiza De Souza,
Wesley Evans, Lynn Hahm, Andrew Depew, Jiachen Wei, Wei Zou.
Architect of Record: Guide Architecture
Landscape Architect: Belle Firma
Structural Engineer: Armstrong Douglass
MEP Engineer: Choice Engineering
Civil Engineer: Clay Moore Engineering
General Contractor: Z constructors 

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