A new acute care facility being constructed on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles tackles the realities of providing respiratory care, which often requires extended stays, by creating a space that's comfortable for both patients and family members while supporting education on continuing care after discharge. To this end, the design focuses on exterior and interior spaces that reflect the mission of the hospital with a peaceful, homelike setting that achieves a sense of timelessness.

When completed, the new $80 million Barlow Respiratory Hospital, designed by HGA Architects and Engineers (Los Angeles), will replace an existing structure that was built in 1927. Located in a park-like, historical setting, the building is placed near a steep hillside, posing a challenge in designing a new facility that not only preserves the historic elements of the area but also accommodates the slope of the project site.

This challenge became one of the defining characteristics of the new facility’s design, which sites the building so it sits against the hillside, creating a gentle curvature that serves as a metaphor for the act of breathing. This curve not only eliminates sharp corners but also allows all patient rooms to be visually accessible from nurse’s stations to enhance the patient experience and level of care.

Additionally, the hillside setting provides hospital patients with maximum views of the peaceful, surrounding vistas.

Considering the average stay of 30 days for this facility, it’s been a priority to make patients and their families feel less confined by surrounding them with colors and forms derived by nature. For example, HGA incorporated interior themes of “tide” and “metamorphosis.” The washing in and washing out of the tide symbolizes the in-and-out motion of effortless breathing. Hospital spaces with this theme will include cool blues and other beach motifs. Metamorphosis represents the transforming experience of coming into the hospital for care. This theme will be supported with deep shades of purple and teal that symbolize renewal.

The arrival and visiting areas of the hospital will be covered by an extensive canopy with a wood soffit that’s carried into the entrance lobby, corridor, and waiting areas. A board-formed concrete wall will continue the pattern of nature-like themes by emphasizing the natural flow and curvature of the building and exposing the imprint of wood grain. Wood headwalls in patient rooms will be carried over to large windows. And on the exterior, limestone plaster creates the smooth curvature of the building.

Overall, the facility will feature an eight-bed ICU suite, 48 private patient rooms, and a physical and occupational therapy center. Patients will also be provided with a full-service dining area where they can gather with fellow patients or visiting family members.

As a way of countering the impact of cost and schedule, the building is separated into a component governed by California's Office of Statewide Health Planning Development (OSHPD) and a non-OSHPD component.

Designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, the facility is scheduled to begin construction in early 2014, with a completion date of late 2016.