Perkins+Will’s initial visit to El Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul in Medellin, Colombia, was one that would leave a lasting impression on our team. The hospital, who’s service over the past 95 years has been considered top quality in the country and is highly regarded by local residents, is the antithesis of any hospital in the United States. The buildings on campus are low scale and primarily designed for pedestrian traffic. The only building that is air conditioned is the surgery suite building; all others are open air, including patient rooms, labs, administrative areas, and public/family zones.
The first day we visited the campus, we saw several patients being transported from one building to another; they were being rolled on stretchers with IV poles right next to automobiles, which were meandering their way through the campus. The sight was impactful and set the course for our team’s directive to design their new hospital in Rio Negro using western influences with the latest technology and sustainable initiatives.
Under the rating system used in Colombia, the new 500,000-sq.-ft. facility design is considered a Level 4 category of maximum complexity—the highest level of advanced medical technology possible within the means and culture of the country. The hospital directors requested a well-planned, American-influenced hospital that incorporated the latest trends and research. Along with our local partners, we included and designed larger single-patient rooms, intuitive wayfinding, daylighting, and sustainable initiatives, all considering the patient and family first.
The direct effect that this new hospital will have on the culture and local community is immense. A facility of this level will encourage families in the region to migrate here and, as a result, foster dynamic urban growth. The attraction and interest is not only from families and patients but also from professionals, as well. The hospital has already received a handful of resumes and letters of interest from United States’ physicians and surgeons, as well as from Colombian doctors currently practicing outside the country.
As the hospital shifts its business and service models from the current facility in Medellin to the new Rio Negro facility, the medical staff will have access to separate clinics, specializing in transplants, oncology, and cardiovascular diseases and procedures, such as CT and MR angiography, will be added to the service line. Additionally, family members will be allowed to stay with patients in the intensive care units. (In South America, it is common practice for family members to accompany patients to the hospital and stay with them through every step of treatment.) Waiting rooms were designed like large living rooms to feature comfortable amenities and distractions, while patient rooms have family zones that include space for multiple visitors and the capability to add under-counter refrigerators for storing snacks and beverages.
Technology and history were other key drivers in the planning and design of the new Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul. The main lobby will feature an interactive, informative area, with computer terminals for research and information. Graphics on the glass railings define the culture and mission of the hospital with inspiring and healing words. The space also will display and honor the history of the main Hospital with artwork and informative plaques that detail its story.
Intuitive wayfinding became a requirement for patients and families to easily find their way, due to the large size of the campus. Color became the defining visual tool. The Hall Clinics look identical from the outside but are color coded by specialty in order to be readily seen from the parking lot.
As you enter inside, this wayfinding element continues throughout, defining the location of information desks, nurse’s stations, and entrances to exam rooms.
LEED-ing the Way
The facility has been designed for LEED Silver certification. Local interior materials carefully were selected to reflect the local flavor and support of the LEED certification efforts. The local brick material used on the exterior facades was carried into the interior spaces. Marble and terrazzo tiles that were available and fabricated within the country were used as the general flooring. Wood veneer from nearby forests was specified, while a few specialized materials from the United States provided unique elements in spaces highly visible by the general public. This will be the first LEED-certified hospital in the country. There are only a couple of industrial buildings that currently hold the certification.
The design meets the vision of the Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul directors while adhering to the fundamental institutional needs. The level of sophistication in the quality and use of materials and furnishings elevate this facility beyond any other in the country. “Designed as a modern, agile, and efficient facility, it will successfully meet the needs of our patients, families and visitors, today and tomorrow,” says hospital director Guiseppi Valencia, M.D.
Marlene M. Liriano, IIDA, LEED®AP ID+C, is a principal at Perkins+Will. She serves as the interior design director and interior discipline leader for the Miami office. She can be reached at email@example.com.