What do you get when you combine a Monet painting with a world-class medical institution? The answer is a striking, multicolored curtainwall façade for Johns Hopkins Medical Center’s new 1.6-million-square-foot patient care building.
Charged with creating a welcoming new entry point for the famous Baltimore hospital, architect Perkins+Will teamed up with artist Spencer Finch to turn a pair of 12-story medical towers into a vibrant architectural canvas.
“It was important to us to present a friendly, identifiable, and unique façade to give an overall first impression of welcome,” says Michael A. Iati, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, senior director, architecture and planning, Johns Hopkins Health System Facilities. “It is an incredible building to view during the day, to see how the colors and frit patterns change as the sky changes.”
Extracting a palette of blue, green, yellow, and purple from Claude Monet’s impressionist landscape paintings, the colors are applied in random blocks and accented with frits to decorate the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center. The tower is named after the late mother of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the Sheikh Zayed Tower for cardiovascular and critical care is named in honor of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who served as the first president of the United Arab Emirates.
The two towers rise above an eight-story base, which is built on a five-acre site and reported to be one of the largest hospital construction projects in U.S. history.
“The hospital was looking for a building to be a symbol and reflection of their future,” says Eric Van Aukee, AIA, LEED AP, principal, Perkins+Will, Los Angeles. “They wanted a building that would fit within Baltimore’s brick and stone masonry architecture, but they also wanted it to be bright and open.”
The brick and glass façade, combined with an expansive, landscaped entry plaza, brick pavers, and clear signage aims to evoke a sense of comfort for anxious patients seeking medical care. The entry plaza then leads to a two-story, sky-lit adult tower lobby featuring a garden, and a four-story children’s lobby. Patients can also easily reach the emergency departments through exclusive entry points, with ambulance traffic diverted to a back entrance.
“When you drive up into the entry court, [the message is] you are now in the hands of the No. 1 hospital in the country [according to U.S. News & World Report] and they are going to take care of you,” Aukee says.
Lay of the land
Filling out this massive new healthcare space are 355 adult and 205 pediatric private patient rooms that include private baths and in-room sleeping accommodations for family. Pediatric spaces also feature a two-story playroom, interactive TV system, in-room gaming, and a TV activity studio.
Clinical spaces offer 33 state-of-the-art operating rooms, seven pharmacies, and largely expanded pediatric and adult emergency departments, with a total of 99 private rooms. Public areas feature a restaurant, food court, resource library, gift shop, and concierge desk.
Navigating the construction of such a gargantuan healthcare project, involving 8 million man hours managed by Clark Construction and Banks Contracting Company, was no simple endeavor. Furthermore, the cost of building materials kept increasing every month, creating significant budgetary concerns for the hospital.
“From the time we started the project in 2004, copper went up 292%,” says Sally MacConnell, vice president of facilities for Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. “We constantly had this huge cloud overhead, so this kept everybody focused.”