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Rafael Viñoly’s Designer Rx for Hospitals

Rafael Viñoly has sometimes been called a starchitect. But truth be told, he’s plowed a far different road than his more fashionable peers, specializing in institutional architecture that requires deeply thought-out solutions. And one particular focus for his firm is hospital design: They’ve got six hospital projects completed or underway, the most ambitious perhaps being the Stanford Hospital, slated for completion in 2015 (pictured above).

Metropolis has just published an interview with Viñoly, about his health-care expertise, and it highlights some interesting challenges:

So how do you find out how these facilities actually work?

We start by setting up an office in the hospital, and our team develops a day-to-day relationship with the people who work there. You need to be constantly addressing this question of how you make a group understand their relationship with the other groups in the overall fabric–and how their field is changing. Research is not something that ends when you put pencil to paper.

But once you put shovel to dirt, what can you do to keep the building up-to-date with all the changes the field is undergoing?

You need to be able to deal with the changing nature of the architectural envelope. With the new Stanford Hospital [set to open in 2015], the building is modular: a clover of four pods, that could be the beginning of the growth of other functions. It embraces a collaborative, random type of experience rather than a clear distinction between school and hospital.

Architects usually begin projects with “research” phases that mostly involve armchair chin-scratching. But setting up an office on-site? Sounds trivial, but it’s vital given how badly most hospitals are designed. (How many times have you gotten lost on your way to a procedure or appointment?)

For more of our coverage of health-care architecture, click here and here and here.

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