As many of you may also be experiencing, this summer’s return to a sense of normalcy hasn’t come without some stumbling blocks. At restaurants, I patiently wait for a server to arrive with a menu, only to realize I should have scanned the QR code on the table in front of me.

My feet reject all forms of footwear that aren’t Birkenstocks, regardless of destination or attire. And when preparing for work travel after 1 ½ years of being homebound, thinking through flight options and carry-on toiletries makes me dizzy.

Thanks to this, I find myself longing for experiences that more simply take me back to “before COVID” times—say, a joyful trip to the playground with my son, a too-long stroll around Target, and being buried in new healthcare design projects.

I’m hoping the latter will give you a similar sense of joy—through this, our 21st annual Design Showcase issue. There’s comfort in tradition, and this really is one of the best.

The Showcase is both a compilation of recent healthcare design projects (submissions must have been completed within the last three years) and a competition that celebrates excellence in planning, design, and construction. This year certainly wasn’t short on award contenders, either; in fact, we’re recognizing four projects with an Award of Merit, three with Honorable Mention, and another four as Finalists. And diving into the details and nuances of all 48 Showcase projects is a journey worth taking.

For example, in our Award of Merit winners, we have a prototype design from CallisonRTKL for Saint Francis Health System that we covered editorially several years ago at its inception. Here, we get to celebrate its newest iterations and give worthy recognition to its modular, adaptable, and flexible solution to the primary care clinic. It’s a design that hits on many modern demands when it comes to innovating the outpatient care model—particularly in how it considers the experience of both patients and staff.

Alongside it is the Guilin Medical University Affiliated Hospital, submitted by HDR and Zhejiang Modern Architectural Design & Research Institute Co. Ltd., a striking in-progress project in Guilin, Guangxi, China. The scale alone is attention-grabbing: 2.2 million square feet and 1,700 beds. But how the design team solved the puzzle of a massive program in a more human-centered way is what earned jurors’ praise, with the project itself serving as a worthwhile case study in site planning and organization.

See, that was fun, wasn’t it? And it’s just a tiny taste of what’s in store for you in our special editorial coverage and on into the Design Showcase itself. Life may be a little different now, but some things haven’t changed—and this issue is one of them. I hope you enjoy!