In 2005, St. Bernard Parish was all but destroyed when a massive storm surge triggered by Hurricane Katrina breached the parish levees. Located at the heart of the tight-knit community, Chalmette Medical Center managed to weather Katrina’s violent winds only to succumb to the flooding that occurred the following day. Damaged beyond repair, the hospital was ultimately demolished. After several years of hard work, St. Bernard Parish secured the funding and community support necessary to build a new acute-care facility. Gresham Smith delivered a design for a resilient full-service hospital that is built to withstand future hurricanes, while reestablishing the parish’s distinctive identity.

Client

St. Bernard Parish Hospital District

Location

Chalmette, LA

Project Type

Healthcare

Accolades

Showcase

109k

square-foot replacement hospital

3

stories

40

beds

Rising Above

Rising Above

Although St. Bernard Parish would require the hospital to close under extreme flooding conditions, we designed the new facility to be up and running once flood waters have receded. We carefully analyzed each department for its programmatic flexibility and degree of public access, the cost and mobility of its related equipment, and the types of wall and floor finishes required. Of primary importance was the hospital’s surgery department and patient rooms, which were placed on the second and third floors respectively.
Celebrating History & Topography

Celebrating History & Topography

Tasked with reflecting the community while celebrating the rich history and culture of the parish, we used images of the regional landscape and local historic figures throughout the hospital’s interiors. The color and form of the interiors were also rooted in the natural environment of the region. In keeping with the conceptual relationship to the bayou, wood was used in the ceilings and main lobby spaces. A two-story wall graphic of the parish featuring Lake Borgne and the surrounding bayous was also incorporated.
A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It

Though the people of the parish live with the memory of the devastation caused by the flooding of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, they still see water as something to celebrate. For this reason, we developed the unique design concept of a river that passes through the main form of the building. While this concept reflects the river as a divider, it also ties the structure back together, integrating its various parts and pieces.
Where Form & Function Intersect

Where Form & Function Intersect

The area where the “river” bends is the life and nexus point of the facility. This activated corner is a place of public entry and defines the hospital lobby. The river form then circulates visitors through the hospital to major departments as well as the patient rooms.
A Bend That Cradles

A Bend That Cradles

The glass curtain wall, which forms the exterior of the “river,” provides the patient rooms and public spaces with ample sunlight and sweeping views. Enhancing wayfinding, the bend of the river—as it passes through the building mass—cradles most of the facility’s public and social areas.
The Ability to Flex

The Ability to Flex

The replacement hospital features emergency, surgery, diagnostic imaging, pharmacy, laboratory and support services. Due to access concerns, the emergency department had to remain on the hospital’s first level. Our design concept of raising the surgery department to the second floor, however, allows the associated prep and PACU bays to serve as a makeshift ED should the first level become unusable.
Protecting Switchgear to Air Handlers

Protecting Switchgear to Air Handlers

Situated 3 feet below sea level and 4 feet below Katrina’s high-water marks, the hospital’s new site was also subject to flooding. Our design places all mechanical equipment 16 feet above grade, easing fears that these vital components could be lost to another flood event.
Designed to Last

Designed to Last

The 109,000-square-foot hospital’s ability to withstand extreme weather and water conditions was put to the test when Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. The robust new building sustained no significant damage and remained fully functional during major power outages, high winds and flooding. Attracting top-tier medical staff as well as former residents who were once displaced, St. Bernard Parish Hospital has been a boon for a once-devastated community, serving as a symbol of progress and recovery.

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S. Robert Hamby AIA, EDAC, LEED AP
S. Robert Hamby AIA, EDAC, LEED AP
Senior Architect