One of the biggest projects on the San Francisco Peninsula is the upcoming $720 million Stanford Hospital. It will replace — though not displace — the hospital’s current home, a three-story affair designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1959, which has a concrete brise-soleil and is very much a building of its time. The new structure, which Rafael Viñoly Architects is in charge of, looks more like a hotel than a hospital, and the design is an indication of what state-of-the-art healthcare facilities are emphasizing these days. Designed to maximize natural lighting in what is often a rather closed, oppressive environment, the Viñoly hospital features a checkerboard layout, in which buildings are interspersed with squares of open space.
You can get the general idea through this 3D animation, which must set some sort of bar for fancy architectural renderings — forget about abstract outlines of people, here are models energetically walking around the space and cars driving past. (The animation was produced by a San Francisco company called Transparent House.)
However, what the animation doesn’t really show you is the interior, which has an enormous central atrium, like many a high-end hotel. The first two floors of the hospital are where procedures take place (surgery, imaging, and emergency services). Above are clear glass cubes, which contain the patient rooms (with 368 beds). The glass cubes are perched on opaque bases that hide all the mechanical equipment of the hospital, and the rooms look out over the hospital’s gardens, meditation spaces and courtyards. The first two floors and adjacent two-story parking garage will be covered by roof gardens, which will create a second ground plane above the street and give patients access to open space without them having to leave the hospital and deal with all the attendant security issues. The rooms themselves will have window walls, offering views of the surrounding campus and town to provide some distraction from the tedium of a hospital stay. There will be motorized blinds that track the sun and reduce heat gain (LEED certification is planned).
“It is an unusual layout for a hospital,” said Chan-li Lin, who heads up Viñoly’s San Francisco office. “Most hospitals don’t devote this much space to public amenities, because they do not generate income. But at Stanford, the buildings and landscape are always somewhat integrated, and the courtyard idea is embedded into their very DNA, so we were able to get our client on board. When you go to a very large hospital, it is easy to become disoriented because these buildings generally have such a large floorplate. Hopefully, we are creating a more humane environment for treatment and healing, where you are always aware of the connection to the outdoors. ”
Stanford is part of the low-density suburbs between San Francisco and San Jose, and at seven floors (and 130 feet), the hospital will be the tallest building in the area (except for Hoover Tower, which is pencil-thin) — which is yet another motivation for reducing the mass of the building.
The architects are working with the L.A. firm Lee, Burkhart, Liu, for their specialized knowledge in healthcare design. Ground-breaking is planned for the fall of 2012, and the first phase, with 820,000 square feet, is anticipated to take four years to complete.