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Game Changer
Competition aims to transform California healthcare design.
The approach to Aditazz's canopied prototype from the
Courtesy Aditazz

Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente recently announced the winners of its “Small Hospital, Big Idea” competition, which challenged architects to rethink healthcare facilities in Southern California. Winning ideas will guide development of its moderate-sized hospitals in the region. San Bruno, California–based Aditazz and Portland-based Mazzetti Nash Lipsey Burch (M+NLB), with the New York office of Perkins+Will (P+W), shared the victory by designing net-zero, technologically advanced hospital facilities that break from what are traditionally sterile and isolating hospital environments. The winners are now eligible to collaborate with Kaiser for a yet-to-be-announced small hospital project. The site and contract for that project will be announced soon, in anticipation of a 2017 completion date.

The competition asked applicants to design a 60- to 120-bed hospital prototype that could serve small Southern California communities—like Victorville and Lancaster (the latter provided the hypothetical staging site for the competition). Kaiser’s current facilities in these cities, while numerous, require support from larger facilities nearby for many types of care.

 “We have to reinvent ourselves as a hospital that fits local needs,” explained Sunil Shah, Kaiser’s executive director for capital projects.

M+NLB/P+W’s public concourse (left). Aditazz’s lobby (right).
Courtesy M+NLB and Aditazz

The winners’ designs united hospitals with their communities and encouraged healthy activity. M+NLB/P+W’s concept envisioned a hospital that transitions from a “sick care” to a “total health” environment, with outdoor plazas and public spaces. The team’s wellness pavilion is a highly glazed public concourse located above a rehabilitated desert landscape, creating a “beacon” of healthy civic and community behavior.

Aditazz brought “the vibrancy of a village to the front door of the hospital,” according to Felicia Cleper-Borkovi, the firm’s submission leader. The firm added spaces that aren’t normally part of a hospital, including the Agora, a central market modeled on those of ancient Athens, and an overarching canopy spanning indoor and outdoor spaces, creating a flexible and permeable site plan.

Although Kaiser owns the 44-acre grounds in the heart of Lancaster that served as the competition site, the plot has not been confirmed for the pilot project, nor has a capital campaign been launched for the undertaking. The competition’s three finalists were each awarded $1 million to develop their ideas (the odd firm out in the final round was Gresham, Smith and Partners). If all goes according to plan, the small hospital concept will be tested regionally before it is adapted to wider markets. More details about how the collaboration between Aditazz and M+NTB / P+W will work will be announced when Kaiser selects a project site and moves forward.

James Brasuell