“They were very involved in mapping the patient's journey from the doctor's office to surgery to discharge,” Shira says. “It was an important part about why this project has been so successful.”
Mock-up patient and operating rooms were built so staff could evaluate how well they worked.
“Everyone could test the design,” says Diane Lindberg-Nigh, another NBBJ principal who worked on the project.
The $140 million, 11-story structure is on the Swedish Medical Center's First Hill campus and includes 10 operating rooms, 84 inpatient beds, 15 flexible preoperative/recovery beds and 13 post-anesthesia-care beds. It also houses an outpatient pharmacy, a pre-admission clinic, medical office space and a two-story surgical and educational pavilion.
All the pieces are connected via an underground tunnel and an overhead sky bridge, “two umbilical cords, if you will,” Shira says.
“We felt light was very important in the healing process,” Lindberg-Nigh says, and architects followed through with this concept by designing the project so more than half of the building receives direct sunlight through exterior glass as well as through translucent interior walls that use ceramic enamel-glazed, or “fritted,” glass.
Design award judge Henry Chao, a principal with New York-based HOK architects, was particularly impressed with this aspect of the design and the level of detail and thought that went into it.
“It's one thing to say ‘glass is glass,' but these designers thought about how light filtered in and lit the space with patterns,” Chao says. “Architects can draw beautiful drawings, but can beautiful drawings translate into built details? It's not like the architecture is so superior to everything else. But, all together, it scored higher than anything else (in the contest), and there were absolutely no low points in the project. It's well-done throughout.”
The combination of the types of glass is used throughout the facility to give patients a sense of consistency and familiarity and to provide a transition between the public and private spaces. The demarcation is continued by having staff-only, restricted areas duly marked and featuring bright red corridors.
Maria Ryan, another design judge and CEO of Cottage Hospital, Woodsville, N.H., says she likes how the design fit workflow patterns and is impressed by how this helped lower lengths of stay. But she acknowledges that it also took some time for her to warm up to the project.
“When I first looked at it, I thought it was too bare for me; it was almost too stark,” Ryan recalls. “It didn't feel too homey; it was almost too perfect.”
But Chao says this aspect fit the building's function as an orthopedic-care facility.
“The architecture is unique—incredibly contemporary and expansive,” he says. “Consider that this is not gastroenterology. It's not about the heart; it's about our structure and framing.”
Lindberg-Nigh says patient rooms feature large sliding doors and grab bars along the walls to help prevent patient falls. Other patient-safety elements include “same-handed” rooms featuring identical layouts and equipment in the same place in every room.
The building is on the corner of a busy downtown intersection, and Shira notes how acoustical engineers were consulted to achieve the goal of making the building as quiet as possible. This was successfully done, in part, by eliminating headwall-to-headwall noise and moving staff corridors and service rooms away from patient areas.