As centers for holistic care and comfort, it is surprising that hospitals only recently began departing from a long history of unpleasant, even foreboding, architecture. A new 160-acre hometown campus for the Cleveland Clinic aims to advance that process of reinvention with generous landscaping, light-filled corridors, and clean design.
The clinic recently approved plans by Foster + Partners of London for the new campus sited just west of Cleveland’s University Circle, one of the city’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods. As Cleveland’s second-biggest employer grows its footprint, some have raised concerns about historic preservation and gentrification in the surrounding area. The project is part of more than $1.3 billion in construction that the healthcare organization has planned throughout the Northeast Ohio region.
“I’m looking out the window right now,” said Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, “and none of the buildings I see were here in 1975.” The global healthcare nonprofit has facilities in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and in various locations in the United States. Eileen Sheil, the clinic’s spokeswoman, said their expansive network supports a robust philanthropic network. In 2010 they initiated a philanthropic campaign to raise $1.25 billion.
As the hospital’s home base grows it will develop along a green spine designed by the landscape architects behind Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Gardens, Peter Walker Partners. Modeled on the National Mall, this greensward will tie together future buildings and provide patients and employees with soothing views.
“We wanted to have the feel of a campus so that you realized you’d arrived there,” Cosgrove said, “and also to give it an ambience that was less threatening than a lot of hospital complexes.”
Foster + Partners’ sleek white structures seek to imbue the bustle of activity taking place inside with a sense of order. Light floods the airy and clean spaces from floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the campus green.
“It used to be patients would come outside—all stressed-out—onto a concrete sidewalk,” Shiel said. “They didn’t have a pleasant place to go.” Now park benches and landscaping will help those patients and employees decompress.
If they just need to commute from one building to the next, however, tunnels and skyways between essentially every building serve to connect the campus’ individual parts. The wealth of windows serves a function here, too, linking one building visually to every other structure on the green.
As their visionary expansion progresses, Cleveland Clinic’s developers are facing calls from local preservationists to do more for structures like the Euclid Avenue Church of God. That building, near the border of the new campus, was threatened with demolition in light of rising upkeep costs. The new campus will play an integral role in furthering Cleveland’s momentum for urban reinvention—one its development and design team hopes will be as therapeutic for its hometown’s urban fabric as its new campus aesthetic will be for the people it treats.