Just about doubling its size and capacity, the new 380,000-square-foot Tom and Billie Long Patient Care Tower at the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, California, is very much reinforcing the hospital’s role as an important community anchor in Contra Costa County.
Visually centered by a beautifully designed atrium and three-story rotunda garden, the $600 million expansion project includes 242 patient beds, a 24,000-square-foot emergency department, a rooftop helistop, a neonatal intensive care unit, three surgical suites, a new 20,000-square-foot central utility plant, and a 780-space parking structure.
Although the tower only opened its doors in April 2011, the community response has already been quite enthusiastic, perhaps somewhat attributed to the extensive community outreach that went into the nine-year planning, design, and construction effort.
In fact, when John Muir Health hosted a health fair and community open house to present the new tower to the public in early April, more than 2,000 people queued up and were willing to wait approximately 40 minutes to tour the building, while 4,000 additional community members turned out for the health fair.
“Over time, we held literally hundreds of user meetings with the hospital administration, medical staff, and volunteers,” relates Tom Patterson, AIA, principal, Ratcliff, Emeryville, California, whose firm master-planned and designed the entire expansion. “Ultimately, little changed about the project through the construction, despite changes in hospital leadership, which is really a testimony to the excellent, collaborative planning that went into this whole complex.”
While the expanded state-of-the-art medical care and healing space is the essential foundation of the project, it’s the lobby and rooftop gardens that seem to be turning heads.
Upon entering the spacious, light-filled lobby, visitors are drawn to the central core where a 52-diameter glazed rotunda encircles an elaborate garden with bamboo and a water feature.
“The rotunda garden is really the hub of the whole hospital, providing beautiful views, and it provides an anchor for wayfinding in the hospital,” Patterson explains.
As for the lobby’s interiors, Ratcliff took cues from the surrounding region at the foot of Mt. Diablo and chose natural, earth-tone colors and materials. Wood and stone line the lobby walls and a large skylight canopy brings in natural light.
While the lobby may be viewed as rather elaborate, Patterson explains that it also serves a functional purpose as a pleasant, welcoming space where volunteers greet patients and their families, and where folks can comfortably wait for loved ones during outpatient surgeries.
Beyond the lobby, a total of six additional gardens adorn the tower’s rooftops, a couple of which can be accessed by the rehabilitation unit patients and staff. Other gardens provide beautiful views from the neonatal intensive care, pediatric, and post-partum units, while other wings are treated to views of the surrounding mountains.
Approaching the gardens from an evidence-based design perspective, Michael Monaldo, AIA, vice president, facilities development & corporate real estate, John Muir Health, states, “Thisis a real service we’re providing, this isn’t a luxury. It’s part of the healing environment.”