Hundreds of historic buildings and landscapes under the administration of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are at risk of being abandoned or demolished, claims a study from the National Trust for Historic Preservation released earlier this month. According to the report, entitled "Honoring Our Veterans: Saving Their Places of Health Care and Healing," the VA has failed to comply with federal preservation requirements and maintain their historic properties, some dating back to the Civil War. The agency has instead favored the expensive construction of new facilities. Owners of over 2,000 historic buildings and landscapes across the country, including hospitals, cemeteries, farm houses, and residences—nearly half of which are unoccupied and at risk of deterioration—claim the VA is currently constructing $10 billion worth of new medical centers despite analysis revealing that it may be more cost effective to renovate existing properties. Texas attorney and preservation expert, Leslie Barras, argues in the report that the VA’s poor management has lead to “wasted taxpayer dollars and the irreversible loss of our nation’s cultural legacy.” The National Trust particularly highlights two projects, the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota, and the Milwaukee National Soldiers Home in Wisconsin, both of which have been designated “National Treasures” by the organization. Battle Mountain Sanitarium was built in 1907 using local sandstone in the Spanish Colonial/Romanesque Revival style. Architect Thomas Rogers Kimball designed the building to provide short-term respiratory treatment for veterans of the Civil War. Instead of restoring the historic building, the VA is proposing to close down the facility and relocate its medical services 60 miles away, citing the claim–identified by the report as false–that patients and staff would prefer a new facility. Another Civil War–era property, the Milwaukee National Soldiers Home and its campus, represents one of the first buildings of its kind in the country as well as some of the oldest in the VA’s holdings. Designed in a Gothic Revival style by Milwaukee architect Edward Townsend Mix in the 1860s, the campus’ stunning "Old Main" stands unoccupied, unmaintained, and in danger of collapse. While the VA’s stock of buildings crumbles, the number of veterans turning to the department for healthcare in the has dramatically risen in the past decade, climbing from 3.4 million in 2000 to 6 million today. But according to the report, the VA has repeatedly elected to construct new facilities instead of putting in the effort to restore and maintain their amazing wealth of historic properties. As Barras told the LA Times, “there’s a perspective that we can’t adapt old buildings, especially for medical facilities.” (Prentice Women's Hospital, anyone?) But preservationists are trying to change that notion.
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An update to our story from yesterday: Northwestern University released many more images from the three candidates vying to build a successor to the site previously occupied by Bertrand Goldberg’s old Prentice Women’s Hospital. The new images include floor plans, interior renderings, and additional elevations of the three buildings. The three finalists whose designs now go to the Northwestern board of trustees for a decision are: Goettsch Partners and Ballinger; Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and Payette; and Perkins+Will. Construction is expected to start in 2015, with the approximately 1.2 million square feet phased in over time. Prentice Women's Hospital, the building previously occupying 333 E. Superior St., was the subject of a heated and ultimately doomed preservation effort. Demolition on the distinctive cloverleaf structure began in October. Peruse the full galleries here: Goettsch/Ballinger; AS+GG/Payette; Perkins+Will.
In the wake of the completion of the $111.9 million Bing Concert Hall in January, Stanford University has kicked off construction on a new seven-story hospital as part of the ongoing renewal of its medical center. Designed by New York City–based Rafael Viñoly Architects, the facility features a modular layout that allows for incremental horizontal extensions to the building. This development strategy seamlessly merges with the low-rise campus. "This project represents an unprecedented endeavor in the hospital's successful 50-year history of healing humanity," said the ever-modest Viñoly in a statement. "By reinterpreting and updating the Stanford campus and the original hospital through a modular plan, it is poised to adapt to evolving medical technology while continuing to provide advanced care and treatment—in a healing environment unique to Stanford—to patients from surrounding communities and beyond." One of the largest developments currently underway on the San Francisco Peninsula, the new hospital will be open for patient care by 2018. The design is based around a universal modular building block measuring 120 feet by 120 feet, which was calculated to offer the best possible arrangement for numerous hospital roles, guaranteeing flexibility in adjusting to the constantly shifting needs of medical technology. The new building includes 368 private patient rooms with wall-to-wall windows that provide natural light and sweeping views, high-tech diagnostic and treatment rooms, and a Level 1 Trauma Center that triples the size of the existing Emergency Department. A 1,000-car parking structure and five gardens are part of the modular plan, which integrates open public spaces such as a glass-covered atrium and landscaped drop-off plaza. The hospital will be seismically isolated to protect occupants and the facility from catastrophic earthquakes.
Another entry in the good bad news department today, as the Post breaks the big story that St. Vincent's hospital in Greenwich Village is on the verge of bankruptcy again. According to the tab, crosstown rival Continuum Health, which runs Beth Israel, St. Luke's and Roosevelt hospitals is prepared to take over the city's last remaining Catholic hospital, and it could close many of the hospitals services, such as surgical and in-patient care, and possibly even the emergency room, one of the few on the west side of Manhattan. So how is this good news, that this critical hospital might close? Well, that pride of place, combined with the first bankruptcy, was part of the reason St. Vincent's used to justify its major expansion and real estate deal with the Rudins, which would have created a new hospital by Pei Cobb Freed and a huge condo project by FXFowle. Now all that could be in doubt:
The proposal throws into doubt St. Vincent's existing plan to build a new medical facility and sell its campus to the Rudin Co. for $300 million to erect a condo complex. The hospital had only just gotten the go-ahead from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission last summer to proceed with its $1.6 billion modernization project after years of protests.While there is still time for a resolution to be worked out—we got about a dozen different press releases about the news from shocked and concerned politicians today—it looks like the hospital's expansion plan is at least on hold, possibly indefinitely. This could mean that the dogged efforts by preservationists to preserve the O'Toole building, formerly Albert C. Ledner's one-of-a-kind National Maritime Museum Headquarters, could be back on life support and possibly on the way to a full recovery. Not to mention a victory for the Village NIMBYists who felt threatened by two new towers in their low-rise, historic neighborhood.
On the popular Fox doctor drama House, actor Hugh Laurie plays an acerbic, yet ingenious infectious disease specialist whose curmudgeonly ways, drug use, unrepentant machinations, and sadistic treatment of patients has earned the show—now in its fifth season—an enormous and dedicated following. The series unfolds at the fictitious Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, where, segment after segment, Dr. House and his team bicker, sneer, and get to the bottom of rare medical afflictions, killing off the odd invalid from time to time. Well, the stage for this gripping serial need not remain a figment much longer: the utterly factual Princeton hospital has recently announced that it will soon move its facilities to a brand new home in none other than Plainsboro, New Jersey! The new $440 million hospital, to be known as the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP), has been designed as a joint venture between RMJM and HOK and is scheduled for a 2011 completion. It will combine facilities for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, including 238 private patient rooms, areas for families to spend the night, and operating rooms designed to accommodate robotics. The project will feature green-era perks, such as 100-percent fresh air ventilation, sustainable finishes, and energy efficiency controls. Digital technologies will also be employed in the form of self-check-in kiosks and computerized record keeping. UMCPP will act as the centerpiece of a 160-acre healthcare campus that will also include a medical office building, a nursing unit, a health education center, a fitness and wellness center, a senior residential community, and a 32-acre public park. With all of these amenities, it's hard to imagine what the cantankerous Dr. House would find to gripe about!