Sunday, August 8, 2010

Buildings and the Built Environment.

I walk/bike past this building on my to school each day.  Its an addition to the U of MN Medical Center on the West Bank and will house the Amplatz Children's hospital by early 2011.  I think its a beautiful building, the green and purple panels on the building change color as you walk past them and the stairwells light up with different colors at night (visible from the street).  Obviously, the inside of the building is the most important when its a hospital, but if the inside is as creative as the outside, then this may turn into a fantastic facility for a children's hospital.  I used to work in the St. Louis Children's Hospital which was filled with moving electric trains, a miniature hot-air balloon that flew around the cafeteria and numerous murals and sculptures of wild animals both inside and outside the building.  They also had a fantastic garden on the roof of the 8th floor with binoculars to look over the city and Forest Park, ponds with fish in them and beautiful plants.  Buildings made with this conscious effort to integrate the physical structure and the use show just how much better we can do with construction standards and placemaking.  Buildings aren't just passive features, they create spaces for social interaction, impact the natural environment, influence our daily activities and travel and much more, in this case making it a more comfortable place to stay, and thus heal faster.

My example of the hospitals came up in this urban planning blog because I assumed that this new facility, in spite of the creative design, would succumb to the norm regarding the space to the right of the building (in the picture above) and turn it into parking.  I was way off.  Over the last two weeks, they have turned it into a giant plaza with trees, terraced levels of patio space and walled in garden plots.  I have yet to get a good picture of the changes, but I will be the first to admit I assumed the worst and I'm happy to have been proven wrong.  This space will bring people outside, give families and employees a space to gather and integrate the hospital with the surrounding community.  I'll do my part by continuing to walk by each day and enjoy the space.

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