A medical center always has to fulfill multiple functions. Just as its nurses must be clinicians, technicians, and caregivers, for example, so must the facilities themselves wear many hats.
Take for example the newly opened Katz Women’s Hospital and Zuckerberg Pavilion at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, part of the North Shore LIJ Health System. The $300 million, 300,000-square-foot facility marries old and new constructions, accommodates multiple medical disciplines, and sustains the local eco-culture in the midst of an expanded footprint.
“They wanted to make a huge transformation, and they needed a building that would sum it all up,” says Rob Rothblatt, associate director in the design department and senior designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM).
The midcentury buildings on the 48-acre campus had a cobbled-together feel, with a main hospital surrounded by scattered outbuildings. LIJ wanted not just a new women’s center but a new front door, a clean modern face that would be the entrance to the entire campus. Designers wanted to harmonize the old and the new, while incorporating the feel of the local natural environment.
Making dual use
Their solution incorporates two distinct programmatic elements that are stacked vertically above each other: A four-story women’s center topped by two stories of general medical space and capped by a mechanical floor. A bifurcated entryway creates order and harmony for the dual functionality of the structure.
“We wanted to separate the different functions, but there was not the space or the need to have two separate buildings, so the challenge was to somehow put those two together while still having a common lobby,” says Neil Rosen, director of sustainable development for North Shore LIJ Health System.
That dual lobby lies at the core of the split-use proposition. One entryway leads to the old hospital via a ramp, and also to the top two floors of general medical space, while a second lobby accesses the women’s center. A chapel forms a centerpiece, joining the two sides in an aesthetically seamless way, while allowing their functions to remain distinct.
“There were early suggestions that it look like two buildings, like a single façade with a line down the middle of it. But the more you do that, the more you take a fractured campus and make it look even more fractured,” says Paul Whitson, SOM director of health and science. The final design delivers a more uniform presentation.
Externally, designers based the structure on the "Vesica Pisces," an ancient fertility symbol derived from overlapping circles. The resulting shape is two convex surfaces, one forming the entrance to the medical center, the other facing the existing building.
This fits the building between existing traffic patterns and the existing building, while allowing light to reach the old building, despite the narrow space between the two structures. Internally, these curved spaces help to lessen the sense of endless corridors that typifies most hospital construction.
Fitting the pieces
The project had to address certain geometric challenges, especially in the alignment between the new women’s center and the existing building. Subtle height variations required designers to align precisely the connecting ramp as well as extensive ductwork.
To make it happen, they turned to building information modeling (BIM), still a relatively new tool in hospital design at the time they began their work. “For the complexity of a hospital, it’s a godsend,” Rothblatt says. “We could make these cutaway drawings, we could show the planning in a very three-dimensional way.”