I had the pleasure Jan. 5 of taking my first hospital tour since joining HEALTHCARE DESIGN and Healthcare Building Ideas in September.

My colleagues and I drove out to the east side of Cleveland to visit University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center. The new build hospital, constructed by Gilbane and designed by HKS, is set to open later this month.

And while it was my first chance to take a guided tour of this kind, it was a rare opportunity in general to be able to stroll the hallways of a hospital that has yet to see its first patient. The only people around were contractors working on finishing touches and staff members becoming oriented with the building. We walked right into the middle of an operating room completely free of scrubs and didn’t disturb a soul as we peeked into countless patient rooms and recovery areas.

We’ll be featuring the project in the Winter 2011 issue of Healthcare Building Ideas, and I urge you all to check it out. The impressive facility is flooded with natural light that complements the soothing color palette used throughout. Well chosen artwork brings pops of color—the most striking of which is a glass flower wall installation by artist Dale Chihuly that hangs above the cafeteria. The spacious lobby features a stunning fireplace that, dare I say, makes a hospital feel cozy, while unusual terra cotta panels replace traditional brickwork on the exterior and some interior walls.

As for the functionality of the seven-floor building, which houses 144 single-patient rooms, outpatient, emergency, and a medical office building, the UH team is putting it to the test right now, training an almost entirely new staff and hammering out logistics like wayfinding issues. Once it gets the go-ahead from The Joint Commission, the hospital will be open to patients.

We wish them the best. I’d also like to thank Chris Kucharski, general superintendent for Gilbane Healthcare, and Courtney Behm, sales services manager for Gilbane, for allowing us access to the facility and for the guided tour.

Don’t miss the Winter 2011 issue of Healthcare Building Ideas for more!