The 37-year-old existing hospital was outdated, dysfunctional and code deficient. The emergency department was undersized and overcrowded. Patient rooms and the surgery suite were substandard. Patients and visitors arriving at the front entrance were met by idling ambulances outside and difficult way-finding within.
The GS&P architecture and interior design team, led by Skip Yauger, AIA, NCARB, Jim Kolb, AIA, and Elisa Worden-Kirouac, IIDA, found inspiration in the natural world just outside the hospital’s front door. Majestic oak trees and small gardens that dot the campus and features of Florida’s natural environment were incorporated into the materials, colors and textures of the project. Using organic shapes throughout, curves on vertical planes simulate gently swaying grass. On horizontal planes, contours in the earth and waves on the ocean are suggested. The façade of the new building has undulating planes and exterior colors suggesting warm hues of nature.
The great oaks that surround the campus have been recreated in the form of large supporting columns both outside and in the new lobby, which is surrounded by a pool of gently moving water. Reached by crossing a symbolic bridge, it is akin to an island sanctuary from urban life, a calming transition to the environment of care. The use of large windows wherever possible brings in natural light and views of the surrounding landscape. Natural themes are used throughout, from stone walls in the chapel to waving sea oats in the railings and beach scenes in artwork.
Essential to the design was the expansion of deficient function areas to improve patient care. Improvements included new state-of-the-art patient rooms, a new enlarged emergency department, a new cardiology department, a new chapel, new classrooms for education, new staff amenities, and expanded capacity in the ICU. A new surgical suite is currently under construction.
Traffic into the building has been segregated to improve traffic flow, with staff, service and ambulance vehicles redirected to the back of the building. While the main entrance with a new entry and lobby is easily reached by patients and visitors from a convenient tree-shaded parking area in front. Separation of public and private circulation within the building and improved wayfinding were key design objectives.
For patient rooms, family-centered care and evidenced-based design solutions were guiding principles. Large windows with views of nature and daylight plus dedicated areas for the use of family members and friends are provided. The patient’s rooms are larger and are equipped with advanced interactive communication technology to support the involvement of family members, improve patient experience and foster healing. The rooms also provide dedicated work zones for nurses, physicians and other staff.
The nursing units are planned to improve staff satisfaction as well. Support functions in nursing units have been decentralized to reduce travel distances for staff thus minimizing distractions, reducing stress and improving patient safety. A particularly successful feature is a staff retreat in each nursing unit, which provides nurses with a space to quietly escape the stressful environment for a few minutes. As described by the design team, “Nothing is allowed in that room except the nursing staff, soothing artwork and some music; no food, no TV, no microwave, no refrigerators…just some lounge chairs, some piped-in music and,” in reference to the large windows in each room, “a great view.”
The most significant feature of the project is a healing garden that is the central organizing design element on which the whole building is focused. All paths lead to it, and from it. It is “true north” in the hospital’s wayfinding schemes, and a place for both contemplation and orientation. The goal was to create a beautiful place and to bring an overall sense of calm to the facility, something every visitor and staff member greatly appreciates. Crossing into a brightly sunlit lobby that appears to float in a pool of water, with a garden centerpiece and chapel, speaks to every patient and family member, and offers a sanctuary for healing, of hope and renewed spirit.