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Monday
Oct302006

Healthcare as urban form-giver

Though the medical community now worries about diabetes, obesity, and “walkable communities,” current hospitals and medical buildings are among the worst urban-design offenders. Isolated, inward-focused campuses promote automobile dependence and separation from outdoor activity. Medical office buildings are mazes of small rooms without daylight.

Some communities are starting to realize that their employees and patients would be better served by attractive outdoor environments, a stroll around the block, or lunch at a sidewalk café instead of a basement cafeteria. New Urban News reports that Miami and Memphis are taking the initiative to rethink their medical districts, while Bon Secours Richmond Health System has taken a more urban approach to their own campuses in Virginia. Their suburban St. Francis Medical Center in Midlothian is arranged more like a town, and includes nature trails.   (see New Urban News, Oct/Nov 2006)

In Indianapolis’ north suburbs, however, the old paradigm persists. Clarian North Medical Center is magnificent on the inside, but outside it is just another big box along the US-31 office building corridor, completely auto-dependant and inward looking. Community Hospital North seems committed to creating its own village of extra-terrestrial objects, looking more an architectural scrapyard than any part of a human settlement.

Because of their political clout, large building programs, and requisite interest in human well-being, hospitals and medical providers are uniquely positioned to promote good urban form on their campuses and in the surrounding neighborhoods.

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