continued from page 133 hospital, moving it away from the factory model that is
now more than a century old (and dying a slow death) and toward a patient-centered approach.
“It was pretty much a research-driven design,” says CSPE’s Cristina Donati.
“The main aim was to introduce to Italy all the latest ideas on how to modernize hospitalization. In this respect, Anshen + Allen contributed a great
deal.” CSPE and Meyer piggybacked on about 20 years of hard-fought, painfully incremental progress in the field. The patient rooms look like small
apartments, with adjustable beds (designed by CSPE) that fit most children
and views to the outdoors. Parents are encouraged to stay with their children,
and sofa beds are provided for overnight vigils. That universal cue for illness
and institutionalization—the wide, endless double-loaded corridor—is gone
from the wards. On the second floor, an internal balcony becomes a living
room where parents can sit and watch their kids playing below.
A single move—giving Meyer a 54,000-
square-foot green roof—created a kind
of serendipitous domino effect.
Though Meyer is a sort of Anshen + Allen best-practice primer, it is also
something genuinely new: a green patient-centered hospital. In 2000 the
hospital received a community grant from the European Union to incorporate sustainable initiatives into the project. But the central idea behind
the design—the desire to slip the hospital into its natural surroundings—
made those ideas seem almost preordained. There was, for example, no way
to bring natural light deep into the building without freeing up the roof to
install a series of light wells, skylights, and solar tubes to channel the sun.
Similarly, making the building unobtrusive meant taking the mechanical
systems off the roof and placing them at a central location inside, closer to
high-energy, high-tech units like surgery and intensive care, where they’re
actually more efficient. So a single move—giving Meyer a 54,000-square-foot
vegetative roof that lowers the temperature inside the hospital by several
degrees during the hot summer months—created a kind of serendipitous
One of the reasons for the glacial pace of health-care design is the time it
takes to complete hospitals: Meyer, for instance, was a nine-year process. In
that period, however, the Anshen + Allen team came to cherish its moments
in Florence—the one o’clock lunches, when a partner’s wife would arrive and
put a red tablecloth over the drafting table; dolce far niente (“it is sweet to do
nothing”), the leisurely approach to time, especially on the job site; even the
maddening Italian bureaucracy. “I had to provide my mother’s birth certificate to prove that I was not a member of the mafia!” says Parker, an
Englishman who has spent the last 50 years designing hospitals in America.
With hopes of building on the success of Meyer, the firms are now collaborating on three more projects.
Meanwhile, Del Nord is conducting a postoccupancy analysis of Meyer,
a process that began with a three-month study of the old hospital. “We are
systematically monitoring what is happening, comparing the old with the
new,” he says. One early report (proof that culture trumps design every time)
indicates that doctors have colonized an area intended for a playroom and
turned it into private offices, blocking the natural light. More encouragingly,
the new building, it seems, has a nickname worthy of its role as the successor
to the Little Hospital. “The children think the wooden structure looks like
a forest,” Del Nord says, referring to the laminated ribs in the ceiling of
the Serra. “It’s not a Disneyland effect; it’s an architectural solution that
has meaning t°o them. They call it the Enchanted Forest. I think that is a great result.” www.metropolismag.com
METROPOLIS September 2008 149
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