Reinventing the Community Hospital

Architects look to flip the script on healthcare design by elevating the local hospital experience.

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A welcoming courtyard at The Christ Hospital provides a place of calm and respite. Photo © Tom Rossiter
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Gracious and sophisticated waiting areas at Mount Sinai Hess Center. Photo © Eduard Hueber

Embracing the idea of “local”

To differentiate this important type of medical facility, we should draw upon exactly what already sets it apart: the way it’s embedded in its surrounding community. “By creating a stronger connection to place, the community hospital can provide a sense of familiarity and authenticity that most large medical centers lack,” says design partner Chris Cooper. “This connection to local environment and spirit of place can humanize a place that can often be perceived as intimidating and alienating, particularly for people in a vulnerable state.”

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The Weston, Florida Campus of Cleveland Clinic is tailored to local culture and climate. Photo © Tom Rossiter

“The hospital can serve as a true community facility, not just a place where people go when they’re not well.”

Lessons from farther afield

We can also draw inspiration from projects outside the healthcare industry. Our design for a public school in Staten Island, New York — the city’s first net-zero-energy school building — has established a new sustainability benchmark for community facilities. The design demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship and preserving resources. Among other features, it includes an onsite greenhouse and garden courtyard where children can learn to grow food, as well as a gymnasium with equipment that generates energy for the building when in use.

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The master plan for Cornell Tech incorporates a resiliency strategy that uses the island’s natural topography and reinforces a sense of place. Photo © Lucas Blair Simpson | SOM

Strengthening community ties

For private-sector projects, as well, we’ve sought to reinforce connections between a company and its community. At the Brooklyn headquarters of a financial services company, the design team worked to create a “marketplace” within the building. Inspired by the food markets and creative culture of the surrounding neighborhoods, we sought to capture the spirit of the borough while also supporting local artists and small businesses. We applied a similar idea with our design for Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi, which includes a large ground floor multipurpose room available for community use. Strategies like these can both enhance and broaden the mission of local healthcare facilities.

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A financial services headquarters in Brooklyn fosters a sense of community with shared spaces and dining options. Photo © Jeff Goldberg | ESTO

We are a collective of architects, designers, engineers, and planners building a better future. To learn more, visit www.som.com.

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