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Healthcare ProjectsHave you seen the Healthcare Design showcase issue yet?

My copy came in the mail about two weeks ago and I just looked at it the other day.

I was pleased to see that two healthcare projects I've toured (and written about) received an Award of Merit.

The Best of the Best

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, designed by HDR and Gensler, got jurors' attention for the way the building supports translational medicine and empowers patients and clinicians. They liked the intentionality of the design and bold use of color and graphics.

Some thought that it is a hospital designed for the future. I don't know about that.  I think it's a hospital designed to facilitate a new way of delivering rehabilitative care that's happening right now.

The Centre hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal (CHUM), designed by CannonDesign and NEUF Architect(e)s, is the other Award of Merit winner I've toured. This 3.5 million square foot hospital impressed jurors for its operationally efficient design, human scale, integrated art program, and role in revitalizing the community.

I'm not sure many more hospitals of this size will be built in North America. The collaborative team effort that went into its planning, design, and construction is also impressive.

Healthcare Projects Better in Person

Looking at these healthcare projects in the print magazine reminds me of the fact that no matter how great the photography is, it's not the same as the real thing. There's just no way to experience the human scale of the ginormous CHUM or understand how translational design in the AbilityLab really works unless you see it in person.

Plus you can never see all the design details that separate the great healthcare projects from the good healthcare projects.

In all fairness, this competition is not just judged on photos or aesthetics.  Entrants have to provide detailed information on how the project also meets the criteria of innovation, collaboration, and functional/operational performance.

Perhaps one day instead of looking at photos, we'll be judging competitions like this using virtual reality or live drones. Wouldn't that be cool?

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Kathy L. Bell, AIA, ACHA

6 years ago

Great comments Sara! I had the opportunity to recently tour the completed Shirley Ryan AbiilityLab and have previously toured it several years ago while under construction. It was impressive on both visits! My tour was with a group of healthcare architects from around the country who often immediately find many things to point out that we might have approached differently. At the AbilityLab tour we had very little of that (okay, there were a few things....). Understanding the average length of stay for their inpatients is close to a month, the hours of therapy that patients receive each day and the immense challenges that patients, family members and staff work with on a daily basis, the design team both inside and out produced a quite simply awe-inspiring project. Interesting point to think that projects in the future may be judged using live drones (not sure virtual reality would have the same impact) - then we would REALLY see how the spaces are used!

Robert Levine

6 years ago

I agree Sara. I remember being at a Denver conference years ago when I realized that a Design Award winning horpital was in the suburbs about 20 minutes away and decided to visit. I expected an expensively built hospital but was taken aback by the simplicity of the construction, detail and finishes. None of that was evident from the pictures.

As you suggest, Virtual tours of the facilities is the way to go.

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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