Agree with it or not, Cleveland Clinic is doing something pretty interesting with the design of its recent facilities.
Looking more like an art museum than a traditional healthcare setting, yesterday I saw firsthand how white walls, floors, ceilings, and, yes, even furniture, create an environment that goes against what many support as the proven best methods of healthcare design.
I toured the Cleveland Clinic Twinsburg Family Health & Surgery Center in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Cleveland Clinic's Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, with hosts/project architects Philip LiBassi, AIA, ACHA, principal, and Ronald A Reed, FAIA, principal, of Westlake Reed Leskosky. We were joined by my HEALTHCARE DESIGN colleagues, Editor-in-Chief Todd Hutlock and Associate Editor Shandi Matambanadzo.
What I found on our tours were very minimalistic interiors complemented by a standout art program that showcases commissioned works right alongside prints of infamous classics.
However, it’s the way the greenfield project at Twinsburg and the addition at Hillcrest were built that perhaps caught my attention even more.
Reed stresses words like “primal,” “connectivity,” and “light” when describing the space. And what was achieved through the interiors in essence showcases the buildings themselves.
There are floor-to-ceiling windows lining corridors, flooding the facilities with light even on an overcast February day in northeast Ohio. This light connects inhabitants with the elements and changing seasons outside, with the intention of creating a distraction much greater than what soothing colors or landscape images could achieve.
The corridors themselves are constructed in such a simplified layout that very little wayfinding signage is found—visitors have few options, in fact. There is likely one way to go and so many views to the outside that orientation should rarely, if not ever, be lost. There also was a concerted effort to keep staff and patient-facing areas clearly separated to, again, contribute to an overall sense of calm.
And it’s silent. From sound-absorbing ceiling panels to offset the hard surface floors to systems running without any noticeable buzz, patients and staff alike are left with a soothing environment absent of distraction, a place where they can focus and be reflective on the medical situations at hand.
Reed jokingly called it “un-architecture”—the firm's simplification of the building design. But it’s really quite the opposite.