Where life begins
Golfer Arnold Palmer has been a champion to his many fans for more than 40 years. Another champion was his late wife, Winnie, when it came to providing safe, welcoming, totally supportive care to newborns and their mothers, particularly in the Orlando, Florida area. The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies that opened last spring, as an addition to the Arnold Palmer Medical Center, is the collaborative product of “an amazing group of women,” says architect Jonathan Bailey, whose firm Jonathan Bailey Associates designed the structure. Women who played a key role in the project were Kathy Swanson, President of Winnie Palmer, and Cathie Brazell, Administrator, as well as a wonderful team of nurses that contributed their input on functionality and women's needs. Armed with their vision and dedication, Bailey worked to create a birthing place almost as exciting and gratifying as the event itself—and a place where staff could provide care as efficiently and effortlessly as possible, as well. Recently Bailey conducted a guided tour of the striking new facility, explaining many of its features and the thinking behind them, for HEALTHCARE DESIGN Editor-in-Chief Richard L. Peck.
“This was a unique curtain wall to construct. We worked with our contractor and glass manufacturer to develop the use of the hardened glass because it had to meet the Miami-Dade County hurricane standards, and we wanted to incorporate the aluminum boxes to accent the visual effect. There are three colors of aluminum in three layers: black, six inches of a different shade of bronze, and three inches of silver. Looking at it during the day, people were asking about these “nutty boxes”; they just didn't get it—until the floodlights were turned on at night. Then they could see the drama of this facility. The building is quite spectacular to the Orlando skyline during the daytime, but we were very sensitive and determined to make it amazing at night, as well.
“The globe was occasioned by a desire to create an iconic feature that would play off a nearby lake. As we were mulling this over, facility planners happened to see a globe design I was working on for an Egyptian pediatric facility. They asked if this project could have a similar sphere. Contrary to the perception of some, this was not a golf ball in tribute to Arnold Palmer—a wonderful man who would never sit still for such a thing!
“The design challenge with the globe was to avoid having it appear to be falling or rolling over anything—I had to maintain a certain tension, and I did that by skewing it. I wanted it to look like a piece of sculpture. It's made of 14,529 square feet of glass. This admits lots of daylight. Thanks to the energy efficiency of the glass we used in the remainder of the hospital, we were able to balance it out and achieve this.”
“Those entering the hospital pass beneath an overarching water feature with its pleasant sights and sounds—a glass cube within a glass cube. There is abundant natural light in the lobby area, and space for such activities as fashion shows, parties, and other get-togethers. Once they enter the hospital itself, though, visitors experience very soft, quiet, cove lighting—quiet enough in itself to encourage people to reduce the decibel level of their voices in conversation. Light is light, but it should have a texture, a feeling to it. One should never see a light bulb of any kind.”
“The interior is all neutral, but the overriding color theme is black. The baseboards, the accents, the framing—they're all stained black. We then play off of that with very light colors and white, with lighting used to create shadows and texture and a feeling of drama, which we thought was appropriate for a women's and babies' hospital.”
“We were on a tight budget—tighter than most. We weren't allowed as much space as the normal hospital, and gross area had to drop. At the same time, there was a need to maximize staff efficiency. Like everyone else in healthcare, Winnie Palmer Hospital is vying for nurses. To maximize their time we had to minimize their circulation; a nurse in the hallway is not seeing patients. So we broke away from the typical racetrack layout of a hospital and set it up so we had three nearly circular nursing units, each of 10 to 12 beds, clustered around a central core—a cloverleaf pod arrangement. Suppose a nurse dropped a pen and then walked past all the patient rooms before she realized she'd dropped it. In this arrangement, the pen would be at her feet. This sort of space planning has allowed 78% of the building to be dedicated to actual use, as opposed to the usual 60 to 65%. These modules can each be converted to other uses, as well, such as intensive care, if need be. Meanwhile, the central elevator is set up for public access on one side and staff access on the other.”
“Another effect of the staffing shortage in hospitals has been that families are being asked to help with some of the caregiving. The idea is to have them stay as comfortably as possible in the patient room in reasonably close proximity to the patient. Our idea for comfortable overnight stays was to have a Murphy bed that would drop down next to the patient bed close enough so that the patient and family member could hold hands, if they wished. The bed is housed in a wardrobe, or armoire, during the day, and the other patient room furniture is placed so that it is convenient yet not in the way of the bed coming down.
“Also, I am a daylight person, as are many people, and I love the idea of floor-to-ceiling glass windows. We gained the space for this because, in our approach, the patient room ceiling is the underside of the structural system above—all fire sprinklers, lighting, etc. come off adjacent fascia. This allows for 15-foot ceilings and solid glass walls. With the bed tower's circular arrangement, the windows are like the outside of a pie wedge. They are huge—17 to 20 feet wide rather than the usual 12 feet.
“Meanwhile, the glass is the darkest-tinted insulated glass on the market. It allows no UV light—if you were to hold up a piece separately, you would swear it's a piece of granite. You have less heat gain, though, than you would with a solid wall. The glass is also nonreflective. One of our design rules is no reflective glass'—windows must not give back to the patient anything that the patient would find disturbing or disorienting to look at.
“Finally, we wanted the bathroom to continue the hospitality appearance—a readily visible vanity and all storage recessed, with the toilet not immediately visible upon entering. We were modeling after the Four Seasons look in much of what we did.
“Additionally, we wanted to keep the warm feel of the room and used colorful, silk-like bedding, Egyptian cotton towels, and retractable textiles or artwork so to conceal hospital equipment. All of this done with the objective of making a hospital room as comfortable and noninvasive as possible.”
“With the leadership of Dr. David Auerbach, who was amazing, we created the fourth-largest all-single-unit NICU in the United States and possibly the world. Also, with our floor plan, we found that the fastest way to transport infants and mothers from the LDR to the NICU and back was by elevator, a multilevel vertical arrangement.” HD