Though still in its germinating phase, the planning and concept of the two million-square-foot Guilin Medical School Affiliated Hospital recently earned it an Award of Merit as an in-progress project at this year’s Design Showcase. What makes the hospital design unique is how it leans heavily into biophilia: the entire facility is modeled after the region’s Osmanthus flower. Of course, the plan also includes designs that deliver generous access to nature and views of the lush, local landscape, as well as fresh, natural light.
Here, project lead Sangmin Lee, director of Health for China for HDR (San Francisco), shares insight on some of the design solutions.
Building Centers of Excellence
Local requirements originally mandated a 24-meter height limit on the building, however the design needed to be able to accommodate 1,700 beds, but Lee had a novel idea.
“We began by establishing the towers as independent centers of excellence that could maintain their separate identities. Each is located on the site so that visitors can easily navigate to their desired destination. We developed drop-off points for each center with their own distinct wayfinding aesthetic so that the journey is clear for each patient as they arrive,” says Lee.
The decision to make each center a different size of the Osmanthus petal was made on the idea that each center did not need the same number of numbers. The ample amount of room on site for the separation of the centers further contributed to the petal aesthetic, which “manifests as a series of low-rise buildings that connect through the gardens and corridors.”
A Modular Program for a Unified Organization
As many design elements like patient rooms and operating rooms (OR) were all standardized, program needs were left the focus. Placement was key. Finding the most efficient layout and modular design were considerably important, according to Lee.
“The centers of excellence were sited to allow for the maximum space between one another while still maintaining maximum distance from the roads. This configuration elevates the ambience on the campus and establishes privacy from the surrounding community so the new medical campus is a beneficial landscape rather than a towering building that obstructs views,” says Lee.
This led to the evolution of the low-rise structures, not only to follow the city guidelines, but also to preserve sightlines throughout the surroundings.
Letting the Design Bloom
The Osmanthus flower stands as the city’s representative flower, and its symbolism is scattered throughout the buildings, connecting visitors with the local culture. This helps instill “a sense of familiarity and belonging.”
Images of nature, like the series of gardens that beautify the landscape, connect patients and visitors to the natural splendor of Guilin. These gardens, which reside in the courtyards at the center of each “petal” are made possible through the low design of the buildings, as light can shine down through every level.
The courtyards are further unified by connecting themes of water, fire, metal, wood and earth. This not only helps distinguish each of the centers of excellence, but it also provides a subtle wayfinding element as patients are carried through their journey within the building.
Additionally, glass building podiums create transparency throughout the campus to enhance the human experience with views, light, and connection to nature.
Daylighting, the Outdoors, and Generous, Generous Views
Utilizing the concept of “Garden in Garden,” the design team was able to deftly navigate the challenges of providing expansive access to light and nature, while still needing to fit a tremendous amount of facilities onsite.
“Atop each center of excellence is a roof garden. Recessed medical floors enhance the building’s flower-like shape. Patients and staff coming up or down from the inpatient tower to these transitional floors have access to the roof gardens, sunken gardens, and courtyards to move throughout the campus and experience its garden-natured design, both between and within the buildings,” says Lee.
“With a solid concept as its base, the entire planning and design process could naturally develop, evolve, and integrate with several measures such as sustainability, community, and wellness impacts.”
Another version of this article originally appeared on Healthcare Design.