At first glance, you are struck by Sidra Medical and Research Center's incandescent design, one that reflects and even celebrates the Middle Eastern sky—but the academic medical center, now in design, is much more than meets the eye. The all-digital Sidra will be Qatar's signature teaching hospital and clinical complex, uniquely positioned in that nation's “Education City” district to recruit and retain leading scientists and physicians from around the world.

The nonprofit Qatar Foundation, founded in 1995 by the Emir of the State of Qatar, is developing Education City as a community of institutions and hub for generating new knowledge—a place that will provide researchers with world-class facilities and a pool of well-trained graduates. Located approximately eight kilometers west of Doha's city center and occupying nearly 2,500 acres, it hosts branch campuses of some of the world's leading universities, as well as several other educational and research institutions, including Cornell University's Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. The Qatar Science & Technology Park is under construction, as are the new Shaqab Academy & Equestrian Training Center and one of the Gulf region's largest convention centers.

Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned, wife of His Highness The Emir, serves as Chair of Qatar Foundation, as well as Chair of Sidra's Board of Governors. Her mission in developing the Sidra project is to deliver a first-class level of patient care to Qatar's residents and to build the nation's scientific resources and expertise. Sidra's world-class design will not only create a healing environment unmatched in the Middle East, it will promote a comprehensive level of care and services to support clinical, teaching, and research programs. To further promote physician training and biomedical research, the Sidra project team is working closely with Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, which is already training students in Doha's Hamad Medical Corporation.

Though based on the North American model of healthcare delivery, Sidra's operational model and planning approach are also sensitive to local culture, values, and goals. The facility is planned for general public accessibility, which encourages the patient- and family-centered experience. Scheduled for completion in 2011, Phase I consists of 380 beds, not including labor and delivery rooms, and 53 high-risk/ICU obstetric beds. Phase II is planned to expand hospital capacity to approximately 550 beds and double the sizes of the Outpatient Clinic and research facilities. Sidra's functional accommodations and building services exceed U.S. benchmark standards, which will benefit the Joint Commission International accreditation and infrastructure commissioning process.

Sidra's service lines will address the unmet and growing needs in the region for specialty care for women and children and general medical/surgical services for men and women of all ages. These services for women's health, pediatric, and adult patients have been programmed and planned as “three hospitals in one,” sharing major diagnostic and treatment (D&T) facilities that are physically connected to the outpatient clinic. While each of the three imbedded hospitals has individual plaza level lobbies and dedicated elevator cores, they do share common areas and educational programs integrated in the D&T podium for convenient access for visitors. For the staff, the Sidra campus offers amenities such as a multistory parking structure linked to the hospital via a bridge.

The design team (Ellerbe Becket, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, and Kurt Salmon Associates) was able to respond to user input from Qatar Foundation, Weill Cornell, and Hamad Medical Corporation in almost every aspect of the design. The profile of Sidra's users is therefore reflected not only architecturally, but functionally. The project team further used special advisory committee members to advise independently on key planning decisions. The areas of expertise encompassed by these experts included medical teaching and research strategies, women's and children's healing environments, nursing and support services spaces, and healthcare technology planning. Overlapping input was available from internal team stakeholders to provide peer review enhancing quality assurance.

Programming and planning provisions at Sidra exceed U.S. benchmarks for addressing patient and family quality expectations, best-practice standards, and the specification of advanced equipment and technology. While technologically advanced, Sidra's dynamic and welcoming personal environment will enhance the users' “high-tech, high-touch” experience.

For an intuitive wayfinding system, urban design strategies were employed to create an efficient circulation system. Concepts of major thoroughfares, secondary streets, and back alleys have been translated to create a hierarchy of communication routes and functional zoning to and within departments. The use of daylighting was also employed to help visitors and users navigate the large scale of Sidra's complex.

Combining these concepts of urban circulation with elemental “shell and core” design principles is one reason Sidra will be appealing to its array of users. Education City leaders developed a design concept called “Spring in Qatar” to promote the region's indigenous landscape and encourage commonality of landscape design among the buildings in Education City. Moreover, the “Spring in Qatar” theme and the site's traffic design provide convenient and memorable access for the general public. For service and emergent vehicular flows, the site has been zoned for separation of these “offstage” requirements. Students and faculty will have direct access to the new facility through an air-conditioned pedestrian tunnel from the medical school.

Illustrative site plan for the Sidra Medical and Research Center (phase 1). Prepared by EDSA.

Illustrative site plan for the Sidra Medical and Research Center (phase 1). Prepared by EDSA.

Enabling technologies will comprise the core infrastructure of the information system. To ensure leading-edge technology has been incorporated into Sidra's infrastructure, active components (switches, routers, servers, storage, and wireless transport systems) have been specified to enable all applications and endpoints: computers, RFID tracking tags, video conferencing equipment, medical equipment—essentially all the devices that require connectivity to other systems and stored information. An IT transport system will provide a secured computing environment, supplemented with policies and procedures for the use, delivery, and display of protected patient information. This architecture will be highly scalable and redundant with network capacity to provide quality of service for time-sensitive applications, such as voice, video, and large file applications (such as computed radiology, PACS, etc.).

As mentioned, Sidra's major service lines include clinical care for women's health, pediatrics, and adult acute care. Its teaching programs for obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatric specialties will be augmented by the promotion of transnational and clinical research programs, which will be located in the outpatient clinic. Aligning with the service lines, there are multiple elevator cores specifically designed for separate use, specifically, visitors, patients, and service staff. These vertical cores are located to allow access from the lower levels to the upper levels of the inpatient units.

Sidra's small family hotel with common living areas is embedded in the hospital. Also, a major conference and educational center with a large stadium-seating auditorium will promote Sidra's academic curriculum. Residents and fellows will have offices linked to technology-intense areas, such as clinics, operating/interventional labs/emergency radiology, and inpatient areas. Throughout the facility, standardized functions for on-duty, consult, staff support and restrooms are strategically located as part of the common floor support areas that are vertically linked by service elevator cores.

Sidra's site plan accommodates the general public with an underground, single-level parking structure that has separate entrances to hospital and clinic. Both hospital and clinic incorporate dedicated airport-style drop-off areas on grade and underground with valet services. The emergency department will have three entrances: one for ambulances, one for walk-in patients, and a special one for maternity. All emergent traffic will use the dedicated ambulance entrance, uninterrupted by vehicular traffic flow from the site's circulation plan. To accommodate air transport for neonatal critical care patients, an on-grade helipad is located adjacent emergency services. Within the emergency department is a dedicated elevator core connecting trauma services to the surgery suite and level III neonatal services. HD

Project Profile

Sidra Medical and Research Center Type: Academic Medical Center

Category: Project in progress (2011)

Chief administrator: Dan Bergin, Executive Project Director, 974.454.9000

Patricia Davis, Public Relations & Marketing Project Director, 974.454.9016

Firms: Ellerbe Becket, Executive Architect/Engineering and Medical Planning, 202.654.9300/612.376.2000

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Design Architect, 203.777.2515

Kurt Salmon Associates, Programming, 650.616.7200

EDSA, Landscape Architect, 954.524.3330

Design Team: Paul Zugates, AIA, and Rick Lincicome, AIA, Principals-in-Charge; Cesar Pelli, FAIA, and Fred Clarke, FAIA, Design Architect Senior Principals; Mark Shoemaker, AIA, Design Architect Principal-in-Charge; Alan Milligan, Project Executive; Travis Leissner, AIA, and Stephen Bailey, AIA, RIBA (Int'l), Project Directors; Billy Farella, AIA, and Peter Rauma, AIA, Project Architects; Don Velsey, AIA, and Huda Juma, MArch/PMP, Project Medical Planners; Gay Forney, IIDA, and Kim Williamson, CID/ASID, Interior Designers; Brian Allamby and Jason Busby, Programmers

Total building area (sq. ft.): Approx. 2,520,000 (hospital & clinic); Approx. 3,600,000 (including structured parking)

Construction cost/ sq. ft.: Not released

Total construction cost (excluding land): Not released

ILLUSTRATIONS COURTESY OF ELLERBE BECKET, PELLI CLARKE PELLI ARCHITECTS, AND EDSA. Travis Leissner, AIA, is an Ellerbe Becket Project Director on Sidra Medical and Research Center. He has extensive project experience in hospital master planning, women's and children's facilities, cancer centers, medical office buildings, and medical schools. Based in the firm's Dallas office, Leissner has just been named Ellerbe Becket's Director of Academic Health.

He can be reached at 214.731.3131 or To comment on this article, visit