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Studio Dental Mobile Unit

Montalba Architects


  • Pacific Westline

Project Status


Year Completed



230 sq. feet
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This project won a 2016 AIA Small Projects Award.

Project Description


Montalba Architects Inc.’s primary challenge was to create a spacious interior while accommodating Studio Dental’s required program for its Mobile Unit, which travels to businesses offering convenient dentistry.  The 26-foot-long trailer with 230 interior square feet features a waiting area, sterilization room, and two operatories.  The sterilization room is hidden behind millwork panels that wrap around to form the patient waiting bench.  A centralized, double-sided millwork panel houses equipment for both operatories and gestures up to 11-foot-plus ceilings with translucent sculpted skylights.  The materials reinforce Studio Dental’s identity with natural wood millwork, bright-white surfaces, and a custom perforation pattern.

The context of this project was somewhat revolutionary: Transforming not only the availability of patient care and treatment but also the scale and the housing within which it is done. How does one relocate a dental office into a trailer without losing key elements of privacy, comfort and programmatic hierarchy?

With only 230 interior square feet, the design team’s primary challenge was to create the illusion of a more spacious interior while also packing the required program into the tiny footprint. Allocating enough space for all functional requirements—including a sterilization room, waiting area, and two operatories—required efficient design and drove the need for each piece to serve dual purposes.

For example, the center millwork acted as both a cohesive wall finish and a storage system for all necessary tools and dental products. The raised wood floor, although seamless and seemingly chosen to compliment the warmth of its perpendicular counterpart, was essential in its design for concealing utilities like water tanks, the fuel tank wheel wells, and the electrical and hydraulic systems. The sterilization room doubles as the designated waiting area but also works to separate the patient spaces from the front-of-house equipment well that houses the main generator, dental equipment, and additional HVAC and cleaning supplies.

The perforated Corian ceiling panels backed with acoustic foam for sound dampening double as aesthetic vernacular to communicate the idea of porosity and a relationship to the outdoors. Similarly, the perforated Richlite panels—backed with mirrored acrylic to reflect light and illustrate depth—provide a contrasting texture to the traditionally sterile quality of its Corian. Finally, the back door of the trailer is fully operable and folds down to allow for ventilation and circulation within the office. This also allows for an open access point for the larger equipment maintenance.

The 26-foot-long trailer’s exterior skin features reflective detailing that brings the same custom perforation pattern to the outer panels, at once a memory of the original utilitarian trailer function layered with the new use through the clients’ cohesive branding and imagery.
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