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Hospital Designs Reflect Focus on Patients, Brands

Rendering of the Seoul National University Hospital Advanced Treatment and Development Center
The Seoul National University Hospital Advanced Treatment and Development Center was designed for a narrow, sloped site. Patient rooms will be aligned in two parallel lines with a curving circulation route between them. © HDR Architecture, Inc.

New hospitals in the UAE and the Republic of Korea take health care facility design to the next level with edgy architecture that makes a statement, maximizes functional efficiency and creates a healing environment for patients.

January 8, 2013—Two new health care centers—one in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and one in Seoul, Republic of Korea—have reset the bar for health care architecture. Designed by HDR Architecture, of Omaha, Nebraska, these two new facilities demonstrate how health care facility design can adapt to shifting care delivery patterns; embody innovative, state-of-the-art patient care; still provide a healing environment that enhances the patient experience.

The 600,000 sq ft Arzanah Sports Medical Center in Abu Dhabi is situated just a few yards away from the UAE’s national soccer stadium, the most striking building within a new mixed-use community. Anchoring one end of the community’s central grand canal, the 78-bed specialty hospital and outpatient care center offers an oasis of healing in the midst of a busy public location. It opened for patients earlier this year.

“Constructed as two cubes with a concrete structural system and a steel diagonal exoskeleton over a pile foundation, the clinical floors sit atop a larger body of structure that encloses two floors of parking and other service and logistical support,” says Mohammed Ayoub, AIA, ARB, RIBA, an associate vice president of HDR Architecture and the firm’s studio lead design principal. Cube 1, the main hospital, comprises five levels; cube 2, the ambulatory clinics, occupies four levels.

The structure typifies a trend in health care organizations seeking to express their “brand” and message of high-quality care in design of their healthcare facilities, says Hank Adams, AIA, ACHA, a vice president of HDR Architecture and the firm’s health care director. “Particularly in the Middle East, healthcare organizations want an iconic image that speaks to the culture and society and is a source of civic pride,” he explains. “The building brands that organization and helps the public identify with its mission.” 

 Interior view of a room where architects used stone, metal, and glass

The architects used stone, metal, and glass judiciously to provide
a calm and restful environment for patients. © HDR Architecture, Inc.

The exterior of the Arzanah center, with its glass and exposed steel, extends the Mubadala health care brand as expressed in the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi building, also designed by HDR Architecture and owned by the government of Abu Dhabi through Mubadala Development Company.

The center is designed to send a specific nonverbal message to the public, Adams notes. “Health care organizations want their buildings to represent the sophisticated, high-tech nature of health care today and look to the future. The Sports Medical Center’s overall external expression represents that message.”

Inside, the architects have combined stone, glass, metal, and water to create a peaceful, calming environment in the public spaces. Patient rooms feature neutral, calming colors and classic lines. By concentrating design and details on spaces that interface with the public and patients while keeping work areas, ambulatory clinic spaces, operating rooms, and other functional areas high-tech but utilitarian, the health care organization can achieve the desired impact without excessive cost, Adams notes.

To maximize the patient experience, the design isolates patients as much as possible from equipment noise and vibration and the disturbance caused by service activities. “The design works on the premise of what we call the ‘Disney’ approach by creating an off-stage where service [activities] go up and down the hospital with minimum invasive movement through the patient corridor,” Ayoub explains. “We also tried to avoid having support doors open into the patient corridor, further reducing the opening and closing of doors that house the supports and logistics for patient floors.” Such heavier equipment as imaging machines occupies lower levels to further isolate their vibration and noise.

 Exterior rendering of the Arzanah Sports Medical Center in Abu Dhabi

The Arzanah Sports Medical Center in Abu Dhabi, which
comprises two cubelike structures, features a concrete structural
system with diagonal steel bracing atop a pile foundation.
© HDR Architecture, Inc.

In concert with its innovative design, the Arzanah Sports Medical Center achieved gold-level certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and environmental Design (LEED) program. Not surprisingly considering its desert location, water efficiencies are a key contributor to the facility’s sustainability. All fixtures are low flow and low flush, and reclaimed gray water provides 50 percent of the site’s irrigation needs. The design also incorporates solar hot water heating, high-efficiency mechanical systems, and an energy-saving exterior skin.

Still under construction with completion scheduled for 2013, the Seoul National University Hospital Advanced Treatment and Development Center, in the Republic of Korea, incorporates similar design considerations. In this case, the design was complicated by the restrictions imposed by a narrow, sloped site, hemmed in by retaining walls and mixed-use urban buildings. By designing a narrow, 12-story building that slots into the site and takes advantage of the slope with multilevel entrances, HDR Architecture was able to satisfy the site requirements and meet the health system’s expectations for an architecturally significant building that reflects its goals and mission.

The underlying motif for the design, “a ribbon of care,” evolved from an analysis of the functions to be carried out in the facility. “Health care facilities are functionally driven,” Adams explains. “First you must recognize the functionality, then identify the architecture that expresses it.” Patient rooms are contained in two parallel linear bars connected by an articulated curvilinear circulation route that integrates patients with caregivers. With a separate entrance at the lower level for outpatient and diagnostic services, the design expresses a modern model of health care delivery that emphasizes ambulatory care.

The exterior makes a strong statement with glass, steel, and an entry plaza garden that features a reflecting pool and waterfall. “The design speaks to the level of quality of care,” Adams says. “Consumers are seeking quality healthcare, and health care organizations are seeking an edge in the market. The magic happens when the architecture leads visitors to recognize that care is very different at this facility.”



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