A Holistic Healing Environment

Oct. 1, 2007
New Construction Citation of Excellence: St. Vincent's South Tower, Birmingham, AL

St. Vincent's Hospital, established 108 years ago, is located on a compact, urban site in Birmingham, AL. An interstate to the west, an expressway to the north, and neighborhoods on the south and east sides of the hospital essentially land lock the campus. When the hospital administration realized that a vertical expansion to the existing tower was not viable for necessary additional space, modular office space and a materials management loading dock were relocated to create adjacent placement to the existing tower. The challenge, then, was to locate the new tower and connect it to the existing tower thoughtfully and seamlessly. At the same time, there was a strong desire to ensure that the new bed tower would further validate the hospital's image as being responsive to patients, families, and visitors.

Today, the new, 7-story South Tower addition blends with the existing hospital facility through architecture and materials, both constructed of Birmingham red brick, but in a more contemporary vocabulary. The addition also features a white stone base, stucco accents, and larger windows than the existing bed tower.

The dramatic centerpiece lobby is designed to serve as an orienting feature for wayfinding, a healing space that filters daylighting into the tower's inner core, and a respite area for family members and medical staff. Every spacious patient room, with 321 square feet of space, is equipped with built-in wardrobe/writing desk cabinetry, a flat-screen television, and wireless Internet access. A glass wall at the end of each patient unit overlooks the atrium, providing a soothing view and letting natural light into the unit corridors.

Each patient bed is angled toward the window, which provides patient privacy and still allows nursing staff to easily get to the headwall quickly for immediate response. This layout also gives a patient the psychological benefit of natural light and allows him or her to easily engage with family members and visitors while facing them in the family area along the window wall. Ample room around the bed is available for maneuverability of equipment. Patient suites - four on every patient floor - have a separate sitting/sleeping room for family members as well.

Upon its completion in December 2006, the South Tower addition houses a new emergency department, 90 patient beds, and shell space. This last piece of the master plan enhances St. Vincent's mission of holistic care with its healing, safety-focused environment that is patient centered, family friendly, and staff supportive. 

Judges' Comments

"Providing a new hospital facility next to a fully operational hospital is no easy task. Of particular note: The external presence of the new facility integrates seamlessly with the existing facility. The consideration of the hospital to adopt a holistic approach to healing is clearly visible in the room layouts: The quality of the in-patient rooms should be used for the norm elsewhere; their relationship to the nursing staff and vital equipment is positioned very well. In addition, the richness of the selected interior materials provides an environment that is conducive to healing. This, along with the ‘Centers of Excellence' that the designers have created on each floor, all builds to a successful facility."

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