Students’ medical campus designs foster prevention, health outreach

George Mann

George Mann

Dan Thomas

Ron Skaggs

Joe Sprague

Molly Herlong

Andrew Cortez

Andrew Cortez

Fourth year Texas A&M environmental design students unveiled several design concepts for a new Frisco, Texas medical campus uniquely designed to advance preventative health and community outreach at Texas A&M on April 28.

Five, two-student teams collaborated for more than two months on the innovative 30-acre campus project with architects from Dallas-based HKS Inc., one of the world’s leading health facility design firms. Their design explorations will inform the HKS project for Texas Health Resources, a non-profit hospital network serving the North Texas region.

“We’re teaching these future architects with real projects,” said George Mann, holder of the Ronald L. Skaggs Endowed Professorship in Health Facilities Design and leader of this architecture-for-health studio.

Mann challenged his students to transcend the traditional medical campus concept by creating “health facilitating” designs that emphasize preventative care and health education, and function as a hub for the surrounding community, offering multipurpose meeting space, classrooms, parks, trails, water features and even entertainment venues.

“Our solution integrates the community into a new and original health facility,” said student Jennifer Romero of Houston, who tackled the project with team partner Jessica Sovereen. “It serves as more than just a hospital by providing enjoyable, multiuse indoor and outdoor spaces.”

The “health facilitator” concept, Mann said, emphasizes preventative health outreach to the local community through educational health and nutrition programs, preventative exams, health monitoring, early treatment and early rehabilitative care; all of this plus traditional curative inpatient and ambulatory care, in an inviting, beautifully landscaped, easy-to-access community space that facilitates physical outdoor activities and cultural events.

"As society evolves, so does the need for new building types,” said student Raul Ramirez Jr. of Laredo, Texas, who developed one of the studio’s five campus design solutions with teammate Briseida Hernandez.

The students’ designs include amphitheaters, walking paths, healing gardens, and multimedia centers, as well as soccer fields and recreation centers.

In addition to the prevention and community-centered amenities, the alternative medical campus designs also incorporate traditional medical facilities, laboratories and office space.

“We’ve built an entire system — doctors, hospitals and clinics — on curative medicine,” Mann said. “We haven’t done as good of a job on preventative medicine. We are trying to break away from the notion that a hospital is a place for sick people by designing a community facility specializing in preventative health. We want people to come here when they’re well to maintain that wellness.”

Mann envisions the medical campus as a community and educational center for hosting lectures, classes and special events and as a launching pad for health-related community outreach initiatives to area schools and businesses.

The natural space covering more than half of the 30-acre campus provided particular challenges for the students, who worked to integrate the landscape into their designs.

“Architects are generally very insensitive to landscape,” Mann said. “These students embraced it, designing gardens, walking trails and outdoor shelters.”

Teammates Angelica Hernandez and Paige Gibson agreed they spent most of their time “perfectly” laying out walking paths and adding architectural elements like decorative trestles and cantilevers to buildings.

“We put the inpatient area on the top floor and tried to keep it as open as possible,” said Hernandez. Her team also arranged plants growing up the upper floor walls to incorporate the healing benefits of nature into the design.

Gibson said the campus’ open space and numerous elements posed a particular challenge.

“We went way outside our comfort zone,” Gibson said. “We had to design for the nearby community and what they want —  the landscape, parking, access — there were a lot of elements.”

The two-member student teams who worked on the project include: Jessica Sovereen and Jennifer Romero, Rebeca Diaz and Norma Montoya, Cristian Rodriguez and Christopher Pilotte, Raul Ramirez Jr. and Briseida Hernandez, and Angelica Hernandez and Paige Gibson.

HKS architects who coached the student teams included Dan A. Thomas, director of health, associate principal and senior vice president; Molly Cannady, associate; Ronald L. Skaggs, chairman emeritus, and Joseph G. Sprague, principal and senior vice president.

Students showed their work on April 28 at Texas A&M and also exhibited their Health Facilitator campus designs at the Dallas headquarters of HKS, where Andrew Cortez, HKS associate, presented HKS' designs for the future project.

HKS has been an advisory teaching firm for architecture-for-health studios at Texas A&M since 1971, guiding design studio students on a broad range of real projects for clients around the world.

Sarah Wilson

posted April 26, 2017