UC Health (Cincinnati) at the University of Cincinnati, one of the largest regional centers for neurological and psychiatric care, sought to bring together patient care, research, and education into one facility, combining 12 specialty centers and 125 faculty members. The four-story, 113,000-square-foot University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute is expected to be completed in 2019.

To ensure the neuroscience institute would meet the different needs of patients suffering from neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, migraines, and traumatic brain injury, Perkins+Will (Chicago and Washington, D.C., offices),  which is handling the planning and design, worked with an advisory committee of doctors, students, patients, and families to address every step in the patient’s journey, from parking garage to exam room. The design team also relied on research evidence showing that specific design elements, such as lighting, acoustics, color schemes, and building orientation, can help improve the lives of patients with cognitive dysfunction and other brain conditions.

For example, patients shared that their typical parking experience is “horrifying,” so the project team designed the new garage so that every floor will have a flat surface, with an entrance and exit from the elevator to each of the patient floors. Wheelchairs will be available throughout the parking bays, and the distance between parking spaces and oversized elevators has been shortened to accommodate wheelchairs and stretchers. To adapt to a 25-foot slope on the site, the garage is being built into the side of the hill, with the top floor of the garage meeting the top of the hill.

Inside, there will be an auditorium and community rooms on the ground floor to host a range of community, teaching, and patient activities, such as dance therapy classes. Because lighting and structural elements can trigger vertigo and affect this patient population, the atrium will be daylight.

The advisory committee also weighed in on the size and configuration of exam rooms, patient rooms, lighting, and wayfinding. Exam rooms are grouped in highly-flexible pods to accommodate different patients during different times of day, with the rooms being large enough to support family and students. Exam, specialty, and therapy rooms are strategically located to reduce travel distances for patients with layouts that are designed to enhance sightlines and face-to-face communication between the patient and medical staff. Patients corridors will be located along exterior walls with windows that provide views to the outdoors to help patient orient themselves within the building and the campus.

A signature architectural feature is an all-white tensile mesh of polyester fiber wrapping the east, west, and south exterior of the building and providing diffused, calming lighting throughout the building to address patients’ light sensitivities. The mesh is also energy efficient: Set 3 feet from the window curtain walls, it eliminates the need for window shades while tempering heat from the sun.

With construction underway, the patient advisory committee remains active, recently influencing placement of computer monitors in exam rooms and family seating areas, further underscoring the importance of patient and family feedback in the design process.


Project Summary:

Completion date: 2019

Owner: University of Cincinnati Health

Total building area: 194,387 sq. ft. (112,390 sq. ft. building, 81,996 sq. ft. parking and bridge connection to existing building)

Total construction cost: $45.6 million

Cost/sq. ft.: $234/sq. ft. (building and parking structure)

Architecture: Perkins+Will

Interior design: Perkins+Will

Engineering: Heapy Engineering (MEP/FP/IT/AV/Security), Shell + Meyer (structural)

Construction: Messer Construction, CMaR

AV equipment/electronics/software: UC Health