Winners: Kaiser Permanente Small Hospital, Big Idea Competition

MNLB Kaiser Permanente Small Hospital Big Idea Competition
Courtesy of Kaiser Permanente

The winners for the Small Hospital, Big Idea Competition are Aditazz and Mazzetti Nash Lipsey Burch/ Perkins+Will (M+NLB). According to the Kaiser Permanente (KP) website, the winners were chosen for designs that:

  • Create spaces to inspire human-to-human connection and collaboration
  • Include civic spaces that blur the boundaries between the community and the traditional hospital setting
  • Bring nature inside with light-wells and rooms that are oriented around a large central courtyard, building on research that shows a positive correlation between exposure to nature and healing
  • Move beyond carbon neutrality to restore ecosystems and biodiversity, and improve the conditions for community health
  • Make use of a unique tool that applies silicon-chip technology to the building and design process, enabling designers and frontline professionals to quickly explore an almost unlimited number of operational and space scenarios
GSP Kaiser Permanente Small Hospital Big Idea
Courtesy of Kaiser Permanente

It’s interesting that Gresham, Smith and Partners (GSP) was the only one of the 3 Finalists who didn’t ‘win’ the competition. GSP’s slideshow on the KP website was the only presentation with hospital room designs provided. They provided hospital room designs and images of daylighting savings and patient room air circulation. M+NLB’s presents images of patients wheeled throughout the entire hospital on electronic sensing beds. I have no problem bringing patients into nurturing natural and social environments, in most cases patients benefit from the variety of situations. I question these hospitals handle patient rooms and security, when they are able to move around. How do you prevent infections from spreading in those social environments. I’m relying solely on their description of the room. How staff members know if something is wrong when they rely on the technological bed to tell them if a patient is doing okay. What happens when they have to use the washroom?

Aditazz Kaiser Permanente Small Hospital Big Idea
Courtesy of Kaiser Permanente

The winners, on the other hand, clearly show that patient visitors and staff are a larger priority, by providing sustainable and interactive spaces that attempt to look like a community centre rather than a traditional hospital. Perhaps the ideal patient rooms of these entries are part of earlier rounds. I found the outdoor spaces in all three entries were the most engaging images. Given the hot climate of these hospitals in the competition, I question how useful these outdoor spaces actually are, though I realize they are using sustainable principles to create natural temperature differences.

All in all, I found the Small Hospital Big Idea competition fascinating. I wonder how successful these projects will be in the US, since we have a primarily public funding formula here. While it helps me imagine what a hospital could be, I think staff members, communities and provincial governments object to spending the money on such spaces when they could fund equipment, operating rooms, NICU units, or additional staff members, especially in our colder climate. Designers need strong environmental energy-saving arguments to compete with tight funding formulas with little wiggle room for additional up-front costs.

What are your thoughts on the competition? Do you agree with the winners? What do you find most inspiring?

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