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From the ground up

A&M architecture studio crafts plans for hospital under prof’s tutelage

Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 00:12



Architectural graduate students Nooshin Esfahani (left) and Chen Han examine a design concept for a proposed children’s health care facility in New Jersey.


Yomi Adenuga

Architecture professor George Mann and his students discuss the task of designing a 75,000-square-foot sustainable ambulatory health care facility.

Ten Aggie architecture graduate students recently had the opportunity to represent one of the top two health architecture programs in the nation at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Fla.

The Architecture for Health Studio was invited by Nemours, an organization that operates children’s health care centers across the country, to present design concepts for a new ambulatory health care center that will be located in New Jersey. Nemours will likely hire an architectural firm to develop a final design based on what was learned from the students’ presentations.

Victoria Garcia, architecture graduate student, said though she has worked on health care projects before, the fact that this project was a children’s facility made it the most detailed design that she’s worked on.

“I think because it was a children’s facility we had to think, ‘Okay, would a child enjoy this?’” Garcia said. “We needed to make all of the spaces welcoming and inviting, but at the same time they needed to have the functions that they were required to have for medicinal purposes. So I think that was a challenge, making scary, intimidating rooms more friendly,
more welcoming.”

The teams focused on making the health care facility a sustainable building, including additions such as solar panels and windows that increase the amount of natural light that enters the building or paying particular attention to the shape of the building itself.

“For me, the challenge is to combine the sustainable things with the interesting things that would attract children and combine those two together and build our building,” said Jiayu Chen, architecture graduate student. “That’s why our building is very funny — the shape is funny, but the shape is useful for sustainable design.”

While the students focused on sustainability of the building, they also faced the challenge of building on wetlands, an environment difficult
for construction.

“So when we thought we had 60 acres, it actually turns out to only be 30,” said Andy Ilges, architecture graduate student. “They wanted the first phase second phase and surface parking on 75,000 square feet. Fitting all that onto the property they selected was really not going to happen in the way that
they wanted.”

While the various program requirements of the health care facility made the design more complicated than a usual studio, Ilges said the process was easier because they were working on a real architecture project rather than one made up by
a professor.

“The fact that we were working with a real client and real consultants really helped because we were able to reach out to them throughout the semester,” Ilges said. “We had several Skype sessions and emails back and forth, just asking questions and getting information that contributed to our project, so I would say the most significant thing about this is that we were actually working on a real project with real people.”

Dealing with real clients and consultants means the end product of the students’ projects may result in a building that is brought to life, not just to be a grade.

“There are many that have been built,” said George Mann, Ronald L. Skaggs endowed professor. “Most projects architects [complete] don’t get built because the financial feasibility isn’t studied or there’s something
that goes awry.”

To resolve this, Mann focused heavily on improving the communication skills of each of the students by making them give presentations, create unique business cards and perform other exercises.

Nanven Dogun, architecture graduate student, said the amount of attention that Mann places on communication was bothersome at first, but that it prepared him for dealing with people in the architecture industry.

“A lot of the things he started making us do that we were not used to were annoying, but after some time you kind of understand why he was doing those things,” Dogun said. “He had told us why, but when we saw them happening, when we go out and meet people, everything he said could happen did happen, so it’s more like he takes a lot of time to focus on the real practical aspects of what the practice is going to be and not just focusing on a floor-plan for the whole semester.”

Mann said each year brings different students to his studios that require different methods of instruction, but there is one thing that remains constant about his method.

“I never tell my students what to design,” Mann said. “That’s like telling somebody what clothes to wear.”


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