Client: CHA Health Care System

Project location: 351 Ya Top-Dong, Bun Dang Gu, SeongNam, Korea 463-712

Architecture: KMD Architects

Joint venture or associate Architecture: YO2 Architects

Structural engineering: ALT structure group

MEP engineering: HANEUN Engineering & Consulting

Electrical engineering: Woo Shin Engineering & Consultant Co.,Ltd.

Interior design: HENDI

General contracting: Doosan Construction & Engineering

Photography: Jong O Kim

Construction start: September 2005

Substantial completion: June 2006

Total construction Cost (not including equipment or soft costs): $30,000,000

Building area (gross square feet): 165,000

Designed to comply with strict height and bulk limitations, the CHA Women’s Hospital brings to a dense, suburban Seoul neighborhood a sleek, gleaming, modernist building (figure 1)—catering to avant-garde Korean women comfortable with (and demanding from their healthcare provider) the aesthetic of high-couture shops, spas, hair salons, and restaurants sweeping Asian capitals today. The CHA brand encompasses all aspects of women’s health and maternity services, from in vitro fertilization to a chic line of maternity and children’s clothes, again to satisfy a unique market niche.

This new hospital is among the first in Korea to offer a full array of advances from the United States—LDR, water birthing, and participation by family members in the birthing process—that are taken for granted stateside. In addition, to meet Korean expectations, one entire floor of the hospital is given over to an extended-stay spa, where wealthy Korean women may remain for up to one month after birthing. The concept of caring for the mind as well as the body is gaining wide acceptance among Korea’s elite and foretells a gradual migration of the public’s consciousness toward complementary alternatives, ranging from traditional medicine and acupuncture through new-age services such as Botox, yoga, diet modification, and relaxation therapies in a spa-like setting (figure 2).

Importance of admitting natural light into the hospital

Given its very dense urban site (figure 3), the hospital is planned to maximize the benefits of natural light, as well as to provide patient, visitor, and staff access to the outdoors from public areas.

This design concept dates back to the early 1970s, when KMD sponsored a study employing UCLA Architecture and nursing students to observe and inquire about patient, staff, and visitor preferences and their use of hospital waiting areas. Because the study predated today’s single-care-room era, waiting spaces on patient care floors and in hospital lobbies were especially important and used extensively by families not allowed in patient rooms as they are today. This study was a precursor to work by others who have offered additional studies and testimony for the need for a choice of waiting areas, access to the outdoors, and the inclusion of green elements within hospitals. All such goals are still relevant to Korean hospitals today, with most of their beds in multibed rooms.

High technology tempered by natural elements

The aesthetic of this novel hospital is contrary to common American perceptions of a warm and cozy, supportive, hotel-like environment for birth centers. CHA celebrates high technology but tempers it through the inclusion of elements from traditional Korean Architecture, such as wood, plants, water features, and organic forms that contrast with glass, aluminum and stainless steel.

Both inside and out, the design focuses on creating sleek, uncluttered surfaces that offer patients and visitors a respite from the surrounding neighborhood’s visual noise. Organic, flowing interior surfaces offer warmth with a central, curved horizontal-wood-slat wall flowing from top to bottom (figure 4), connecting various functional areas and natural gathering spaces for patients, families, and friends. Natural light flows through vast windows and a central atrium. A variety of open-air areas foster natural interaction and relaxation. The rooftop features a diverting and restful sky garden. Patient room windows rely on a dot pattern of changing densities to filter light and provide privacy while keeping interiors bright (figure 5). The glass curtainwall serves as a veil of comfort, providing a sense of shelter without separating patients from the outdoors.

Fitting a building into a small urban site

The hospital’s ecological impact is minimal. The half-block site is surrounded by four-story commercial and residential buildings and faces the larger CHA Bundang Hospital across the street. Because of the site’s small size, the building program required four levels above grade and four below (for parking and support services).

KMD’s primary design goal was to enhance the hospital experience through the maximization of daylight for greater patient and visitor satisfaction, as well as improved inpatient outcomes, through unique approaches for introducing and controlling daylight and creating a sense of privacy in patient bedrooms in a dense urban setting.

Because of the proximity of buildings at the rear and sides of this small hospital, the issue of bedroom privacy is solved in two ways. One is the provision of traditional shades that may be drawn for privacy, as well as desired darkness. Second is the introduction of patterned, fritted glass having a range of opaqueness, yet allowing light to penetrate through both the clear and white areas of each window. For the most part, patients find the degree of privacy offered by the fritted glass sufficient and enjoy the brightness and cheeriness of the natural illumination. In public areas the frit pattern is at a minimum, leading to the building’s overall transparency (figure 6).

A second, equally important goal is the introduction of natural forms, plants, materials, and water features throughout the hospital, but doing so within the building and its very limited setbacks (in stark contrast to the harshness of the surrounding neighborhood). Nearly all floors of the building, from the basement to the rooftop garden, become accessible respite areas for patients, staff, and visitors, either visually or by experiencing the outdoors and ever-changing Korean weather effortlessly, alone or in groups (figures 7, 8).

The rooftop is divided into areas of plants and wood decks. The plantings are typical of those found in Korean gardens, with emphasis on flowering shrubs and their ability to withstand harsh winter temperatures and rare snowfalls. At lower terrace levels, bamboo and specimen trees will grow vertically for appreciation from a number of viewpoints. At the entrance level there is a contrast between plants, bamboo, and sculptures in the shapes of giant vegetables. The ensemble will be completed by tall, deciduous street trees and limited low plantings along building setbacks. From the exterior such trees will contrast with the curtainwall, and from the interior they will offer close-up views into treetops from public open spaces and stairs.

Healthcare Design 2008 November;():14-18