As a leader in teaching and research, UCSD Medical Center - Hillcrest is installing a 3T magnet for patient diagnostics within the hospital. A 5,600-square-foot expansion to the radiology department was required for the new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Suite. The design provides solutions to common patient complaints of anxiety, claustrophobia, and noise, as well as creating an environment that will attract and help retain quality staff.

The design concept embraces the patient's feeling of confinement during the scan, turning it into a soothing experience. This was accomplished through abstraction of a natural phenomenon—slot canyons. These spaces, created by wind and water, are physically constrictive yet intriguingly beautiful, encouraging discovery. The relationship between spaces is a direct result of staff requirements for control, magnet safety, communication, work efficiency, and teaching.

Project category: Project in progress (July 2006)

Chief administrator: Richard Liekweig, Administrator, (858) 822-2983

Firm: Leary Childs Mascari Warner Architects, (858) 695-0444

Design team: Douglas Childs, Principal-in-Charge; Sandy Arbuckle, Project Manager; Carrie Van Eyck, Designer/Planner; Eric Scavone, Project Architect

Total building area (sq. ft.): 5,600

Construction cost/sq. ft.: Not released

Total construction cost (excluding land): Not released

The suite's design carries the patient through a succession of warm, intimate spaces, culminating in the Scan Room. The Scan Room is a quiet place of wonder. The curved, wood-veneer ceiling intrigues the patient, while backlit alabaster panels extend the limits of the walls, opening up the space in a horizontal direction. A surprise slit in the ceiling reveals a glimpse to the “sky.” Sound-absorbing material associated with the ceiling system and walls mitigates the noise produced by the magnet.

The client fully supports the design, believing that the calmer the patient is, the more successful the scans will be. This suite has been designed to accommodate a second magnet in the future.