Kaiser Permanente's Rejuve(n)ate Café transforms the hospital cafeteria into something truly special
A series of projects for Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles demonstrate what can happen when creative design meets a forward-thinking administration. Working with TAYLOR, Kaiser transformed a collection of disparate buildings that spans five city blocks along Hollywood's iconic Sunset Boulevard, unifying their appearance to create a sense of campus.
The showcase project is the Rejuve(n)ate Café-a popular place to eat and a welcome retreat for Kaiser's staff, visitors, and patients. The café's standout Sunset Boulevard façade anchors the campus's new external image, while its interior plan reimagines and redefines the hospital cafeteria.
An exterior transformation
Kaiser's Hollywood neighborhood is undergoing considerable renewal, and although the hospital is located on its most famous street, their institutional looking buildings, acquired or designed to purpose over time, lacked coherency. All the buildings were different colors with the brightly painted parking structures juxtaposed by the dark, unpainted undersides of the parking decks.
The design team developed an exterior plan that unified the visual effect-some façades were sided with green screens, the parking structures and buildings were painted using a newly created master color palette. Landscaping and streetscaping, which is still underway along Sunset, extends the unifying theme. Pedestrian-scale LED lighting on the street lends design excitement, and creates an enjoyable nighttime walking and driving experience.
As much as the color palette, landscaping, and lighting helped to create a sense of place, it was, almost inadvertently, a single design feature-the façade of the Rejuve(n)ate Café-that changed the entire perception of the campus visually. Recognizing that glass looking onto Sunset Boulevard was a key to the Café's interior design, the designers conceived of an impressive combination of linear glass and a dining terrace. But, for the exterior effect they wanted something very playful and challenged the contractors to come up with a cost-effective alternative to all linear glass. The solution was a bold expanse of undulating glass, achieved at only a small cost differential.
The façade was the breakthrough design stroke Kaiser needed to transform their street presence. An identifiable landmark for people traveling along Sunset Boulevard, it has become a bright, visual signal that they have arrived at the Kaiser campus. Saying ‘behind the glass’ has become an easy way of directing people to the Rejuve(n)ate Café and other locations in and near its building.
A telling title
Inside the Rejuve(n)ate Café, the façade has equal impact as the sculpted curtain wall floods the space with natural light and provides a view to the bustling streets of Hollywood. Plentiful light-controlled by a programmable lighting system-clean lines, lofty ceilings, and comfort dominate the Café's interior. Here the project's playful name acquires meaning as its two predominant purpose-dining and relaxation-find their spaces in the floor plan.
The design carries people into the open, sunlit space of the Café, which makes it both a destination and a natural crossroads for the busy pedestrian routes among a medical office building, Kaiser's new hospital, and the garage that serves both. The plan incorporates 1,000 square feet of space, including a 500-square-foot terrace along Sunset that was added to the original 14,500 square feet to create the dynamic 400-seat cafeteria. Quite a change from the undistinguished first impression that greeted arrivals prior to the renovation-a medical records storage area.
“Circulation through the new space is an absolute success,” says Mark Costa, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center's Executive Director. “Creating clear connections from other facilities right through the Café let us have an inviting space that many people see. Even if they don't stop, they note what it is and how they might use it when they can.”
Now, the Café is an impressive point of arrival with the appeal of a busy town center. Comfortable seating arranged along a softly curving path invites passersby to stop and rest; small groupings encourage impromptu meetings; proximity of the path to the coffee bar and food platforms inspires a dining break.
Staff, on long shifts, express their appreciation for the Café's ambiance and its proximity to their work, which allows them to take longer meal breaks and more meaningful periodic breaks. For them and for Kaiser's many visitors or patients, the space literally and figuratively calls people to stop and ‘Rejuve(n)ate’ for renewed work effort, to approach a patient, or to recapture their own non-patient persona.
Redefining hospital cafeteria
“After we opened our new hospital last year it became clear we needed a place where people could rest, relax, eat, and communicate,” says Costa. “We have over 5,000 employees, 2,000 doctors, hundreds of volunteers, and many thousands of patients, spread over nearly two million square feet of space. Our primary goal was to create a special place for all those people. We wanted a café that was so special that people would say being there was really a nice part of their day.”
Extensive seating areas are gracefully arranged to ease pedestrian traffic through the space and between adjacent buildings. Seating is arranged largely along the newly created Sunset Boulevard view and on the attractive terrace extension. Large, comfortable, upholstered chairs and well-placed coffee tables with clean lines are arranged in multiple, intimate seating areas to create a relaxing lounge-like atmosphere. Dining tables are easily moved about and many are placed on the terrace overlooking Sunset Boulevard where the sight of happy diners helps to establish the Café's strong street presence.
Exhibition cooking-an uncommon amenity for a busy hospital cafeteria-takes place at clearly accessible food stations. Simple, wholesome food is prepared fresh and offered individually to clientele. Creating and serving healthy food in this way supports Kaiser's focus on wellness and highlights the impact food choices have on health. No surprise that food sales business has grown by some 30-40%.
The design assures that the food service area is visually appealing. While much of the ceiling is opened up to expose ductwork and emphasize the vertical volume, in the servery soffits lower the height and focus attention on the food stations. Crisp typography identifies the choices. Translucent 3-Form panels on the stainless steel counters and cooking hoods soften their appearance; back lit by LED lighting, they add to the fresh and airy feel that the designers wanted to achieve in the overall concept.
The high traffic in the Café is handled admirably by a well-conceived circulation plan that leads people to the food stations and a coffee bar, to the tables and chairs and lounge-style seating, and across the breadth of the area. Serene floor patterns complement floor plans as wayfinding elements. Transparent, resin-formed hanging “clouds” and a decorative rippled “water wall” help define the spaces, add visual interest, and contribute to the relaxing atmosphere. Kaiser suggests that people waiting for a patient's exam, procedure, or operation go to the Café, to enjoy the space and be summoned by pager when the wait is over.
“We feel good about the dollars we invested in refreshing our older buildings' exteriors and on improving our landscaping and lighting,” says Mark Costa. “Sophisticated finishes throughout the project … reflect the high quality that is key to Kaiser's image. The Rejuve(n)ate Café with its Sunset Boulevard façade gives new life to the whole campus and impacts, in a very positive way, the many people who come to eat, or gather, or rest away from the intense clinical setting that exemplifies most of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. “And,” he adds, “they serve the best oatmeal in town.” HD
Harbans Ghatoade is an Associate, Designer, and Project Manager at TAYLOR, an architecture, planning, and interior design firm located in Newport Beach, California.
For more information, visit www.TAA1.com.
Healthcare Design 2010 June;10(6):40-44