We received the commission to design the phased expansion of Condell Medical Center in 1998. The first phase of the expansion opened in July 2003. The project involved 190,000 square feet of new construction and 60,000 square feet of renovation. Programmatic components included the first hospital-based spa in the state, a new 14,000-square-foot Emergency Department, 16-bed ICU, 30,000-square-foot Surgery Suite, Women's Center, Birthing Center, GI Laboratory, Central Sterile Processing, and Administrative Offices.

Project category: New construction & Remodel/Renovation (completed May 2003)

Chief administrator: Eugene Pritchard, Chief Executive Officer, (847) 362-2900

Firm: Pratt Design Studio, Ltd., (773) 755-2000

Design team: Robert Pratt, Design Principal (Pratt Design Studio, Ltd.); Paul VanDuyne, Vice-President (KJWW Engineering Consultants, PC); Mike Doiel, Senior Vice-President (HDR Architecture, Inc.); Koz Sowlat, Vice-President (Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers); David McCallum, Landscape Architect (McCallum Associates)

Photography: © James Steinkamp, Steinkamp/Ballogg Photography, Chicago

Total building area (sq. ft.): 190,000 (new); 60,000 (renovation)

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $252

Total construction cost (excluding land): $63,000,000

In 1980, a major addition was added to Condell that matched floor-to-floor heights in the adjoining 1956 bed-tower. The 1956 building used through-wall air conditioning units that did not require overhead ductwork, resulting in restrictive heights of 11 to 12'. Since the 1980 building represented most of the existing useable square footage, the hospital decided that it was not feasible to connect ramps to the new building. The solution was to place the ducts in exterior mechanical buttresses. This resulted in more duct shafts with smaller ducts penetrating the building from the outside. Ceiling space in the center of the building was then available for other systems. Elevator shafts and linen and trash chutes were moved to the perimeter, allowing maximum flexibility for floor area. The newly designed building exterior presented the solution to a complex problem. This technical solution became a strong aesthetic feature of the building.

The exterior material is self-supporting precast concrete, creating smaller interior columns and more floor area. Utilizing precast concrete also allowed for the use of applied art. The decorative bands that surround the building are an overlay of an abstracted human figure and a pulse, symbolizing the community's health. We designed the mechanical buttresses as abstracted flower forms, with a leaf-shaped base and stem leading to a flower atop the buttress. These forms reflect a great inspiration: Nature.

Upon arriving at the hospital, visitors are greeted by a uniformed valet who emerges from an integrated kiosk, directing them to the Main Lobby. When entering the Lobby, visitors are introduced to a three-story, light-filled glass atrium with a distinct curve, suggesting a path to follow. The ambience of the Main Lobby resembles that of a luxury hotel rather than a traditional hospital. Soaring heights, sweeping lines, natural light and materials, and flowing water produce an atmosphere of grandeur and warmth. Within the Lobby, beneath the curved glass curtain wall, is an intimate seating area. The lower ceiling height, rich fabric textures, and deep wood furniture stains are a backdrop for conversation or rest. The brushed-bronze elevators, monumental stairway, and information desk are centrally located in the Lobby, providing access to the second-floor New Life Center and third-floor Surgery. All are designed with materials integrated throughout the hospital: maple and anigre woods, brushed bronze, stainless steel, and granite.

Directly off the Main Lobby is the entrance to the Women's Center, which houses the first hospital-based spa in Illinois. Soft lighting, soothing colors, and three water features welcome visitors. This full-service spa was designed to expand the public's view of healthcare and healing, and to forge a greater link with the community. Condell's easily accessible “InnerSpa” is open to the public, patients, and staff.

In addition to traditional spa services, such as massages and manicures, the InnerSpa offers cosmetic consultation to women who suffer disfigurement from a medical condition, chemotherapy, or surgery. Patients can consult about prosthetics or be fitted for a wig as part of a truly integrated healthcare program. Surrounding the spa are Women's Imaging, a Daycare Center, and OB-GYN physicians’ offices.

From concept through completion, our objective for the architecture and interior design was to serve the needs of patients, visitors, and staff at every level. People visiting hospitals are under enormous stress, often fighting for their lives or that of a loved one. What more important place could there be for efficient procedures, clear wayfinding, comfortable destinations, and overall care for patients and visitors?