The natural world isn’t typically something people associate with medical facilities, yet GBBN Architects has reconciled the two at Cincinnati’s TriHealth Harold and Eugenia Thomas Comprehensive Care Center. “Wherever possible, the building’s architecture connects people to the healing power of nature,” said Cassidy Staver, one of the project’s designers.
A lush landscape greets visitors on arrival at the care center, and once inside, patients encounter a three-story living wall in a large atrium, which is further enriched with wood flooring and wall panels. Nature’s presence is felt deep inside the building too; backlit perforated panels in the windowless MRI room evoke the soothing effect of dappled sunlight on a forest floor.
Many of these touches do more than soothe patients and care providers; they also help orient patients so they can easily navigate the 140,000-square-foot care center.
“When a patient is frail and needing help for so many of their routine activities, they can feel a loss of their sense of self-worth,” Staver said. “One of the ways we sought to restore this was to maximize intuitive wayfinding, helping patients get a sense of where they are going without having to ask or be led.”
Such assistance comes in many forms: the lobby’s two birch-veneer screen walls in subtly different tones are the internal faces of the building’s primary departments (the cancer and heart institutes), and the windows at the ends of corridors literally and figuratively light the way for patients moving between appointments.
The designers were mindful of providers’ comfort as well.
“These are the people who are in the building for many hours, day in and day out, and carrying the weight of their patients’ health battles,” Staver said. “For patients to receive the best care, the restorative quality of the facility must benefit the staff too.”
Planted terraces on the tiered southern edge of the building allow staff to pop out for quick breaks, and break lounges and collaboration spaces sit along glazed portions of the facade.
Construction manager: Turner Construction
Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineer: HEAPY
Structural engineer: Schaefer
Landscape designer: REALM Collaborative
Living wall: Urban Blooms
Millwork: Bruewer Woodwork Manufacturing Co.
Glass: Skyline Design
Wood ceilings: Norton Industries
Carpeting and vinyl tile: Mohawk Group, Shaw Contract
Ceiling blades: Armstrong Ceilings
Glass film and upholstery: Designtex
Plastic laminate: Panolam Surface Systems