New hospital design beginsThe architects hired to design a new hospital spent two days in Jamestown last week in the first of what will be a series of visits and discussions over the next several months.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
The architects hired to design a new hospital spent two days in Jamestown last week in the first of what will be a series of visits and discussions over the next several months.
Designing a new hospital is not just sitting down and drawing a building. Architect Rick Dahl, of the St. Paul, Minn., firm of BWBR Architects, said a hospital has to be uniquely designed to fit not only the staff and patient needs, but the site, the community and future health care requirements. He said this part of the design process is fundamental and means months of meetings and discussions.
Dahl said the process starts with the “big picture,” eventually getting down to smaller and smaller details.
“We’ll have a pretty good direction for building, siting and relating it all to I-94 after this visit,” Dahl said Tuesday.
Jamestown Hospital officials decided to build a new $30- to $40-million facility last spring after researching expansion and renovation of the present building. It proved impossible to redesign or add on to it and BWBR was hired to design a new hospital.
Since then the architects have had some general discussions with staff. However, this trip to Jamestown signals the design process has officially begun. The BWBR architectural team met with Jamestown Hospital department heads to get a more definitive idea of their space needs. Dahl said part of the discussion with staff focused on their feelings about living in Jamestown, plus their hopes and aspirations for its future.
“I picked up on a lot of pride in the community,” he said. “It’s a great place to live and the No. 1 reason is because of the people.”
The discussion included Jamestown’s amenities, its college and the many parks the city boasts. It also included the revitalization of the downtown.
“They said the reinvestment that’s been occurring gives the breath of hope for the future,” Dahl said. “It’s a sign of the city’s vitality.”
A new hospital needs to reflect those views of community pride, stability and vitality, he said. It should represent the future as well as the present.
“It should look like it belongs there,” he said.
The site of the new hospital is on the south side of Interstate 94 near the U.S. Highway 281 bypass. Along with hospital officials, Dahl and his architectural team trekked around the site to get a feel for the area. Dahl said the team was doing a preliminary site and landscape analysis — its potential traffic patterns and amenities.
Then they talked with staff about their vision for the site.
“We’ll look at different options even if in the end they won’t work,” he said.
The floor plan for a new facility starts with this type of discussion. At the same time Dahl has to be aware of the trends in health care, not just in the present, but projecting the facility into the future. He’s been designing hospitals for 23 years.
“Trends in health care design have changed so much,” he said. “You want to focus on maximizing efficiencies and determine what makes the most sense. You start with some basic assumptions, but there are always ways to improve the design.”
Not only health care trends have to be taken into account, so do changing demographics. Plus, there’s the ever-evolving equipment needs as hospitals move toward better, more sophisticated technology for patient care.
“They started building this hospital in 1927,” said Jamestown Hospital President Marty Richman. “At the time they didn’t know what an X-ray was.”
So Dahl and his team will have to design a facility flexible enough to adapt to a future no one can imagine. To do that, he said, means designing movable space. For example, although medical record storage requires space now, in the future records will be stored on computer. That means room for information technology will grow as hard copy records diminish, so the two departments should be connected.
“We’ll position ‘soft’ spaces as things contract and expand,” he said.
The architectural team plans to be back in Jamestown about every three weeks into the summer with continuing layers of detail on the design. The December visit is a three-day workshop.
“You take your tools on the road to further develop the plan and its flexibility,” Dahl said.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453
or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org