Opened in March 2021, the seven-story Center for Community Health (CCH) in Brooklyn, N.Y., is located across from owner NewYork-Presbyterian’s Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and marks the first major ambulatory care facility built in Brooklyn in 40 years.
The design team faced a variety of challenges to deliver the 400,000-square-foot facility, from a C-shaped project site that touches four different zoning districts to community hesitation about the project.
To overcome these issues, the project, submitted by Perkins Eastman (New York), features a variety of planning and architectural solutions. Those relate to massing, scale, and materials selection that helps it fit in with its historic neighborhood. Additionally, an extensive art program was employed to further reflect and connect to the community.
Jurors appreciated the well-rounded approach from the exterior to the interior to create a modern, welcoming setting.
Here, Steven Wright, associate principal; Cristobal Mayendia, principal; Duncan Reid, principal; and Christina Peters, senior associate—all from Perkins Eastman—and art consultant Alissa Friedman, Salon 94, discuss some of strategies behind the project.
Healthcare Design: What overall goals/principles were established to help guide this project?
Steven Wright: As hospitals shift more to outpatient settings, it was important for this largest ambulatory center in Brooklyn to offer unprecedented access to multispecialty outpatient care, including advanced preventive, diagnostic, and same-day outpatient surgical procedures, in order to help patients spend less time in the hospital.
It was very important that the center reach out to and contribute to its historic, residential context—that it not only feels at home in but also “of” the neighborhood.
The project faced several challenges related to its location. How did you solve these?
Wright: Working closely with the community, including Preserve Park Slope, a community advocacy group, certain design elements, such as the reduction in the building height and stepping back the upper floors, were agreed upon.
The project was also confronted with a laydown area for logistics confined to only one frontage of the building; preservation of trees close to the construction; traffic plan requirements; creation of a construction task force; and monthly meetings with community members and number of other items.
In addition, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) approval further stipulated a number of requirements regarding truck routing, noise mitigation, coordinating with school hours, dust mitigation, environmental protection and rating of equipment, parking restrictions, rodent control, etc. This proved to be specifically challenging during project permitting as after-hours work as well as sidewalk and road closures became points of community contention.
In response, the team developed and implemented a comprehensive environmental mitigation plan that included measures to control truck routing, staging of materials off-site, and careful planning of export trucking during the excavation phase.
What strategies did you employ to blend the facility into its residential setting?
Cristobal Mayendia: To provide large, uninterrupted floor plates to accommodate the 400,000-square-foot center, we sought height and setback zoning variances. This solution established a more modest street wall height where the building faces the neighborhood while growing the building height inwards toward the existing hospital across 6th Street.
Duncan Reid: We intentionally and sensitively broke down the scale of this large building within its residential brownstone neighborhood by shifting volume, cornice, and building base to the scale of the surrounding brownstones. The massing, scale, and proportion of windows and material color and texture also help blend this 21st-century healthcare facility into its largely 19th- and early 20th-century context.
How were you able to achieve generous access to daylight throughout the facility?
Christina Peters: The large windows of the building deliver lots of daylight and emphasize breathtaking views of the neighborhood, reaching all the way to the East River and looking back out to Manhattan. Particular attention was paid to staff areas like work rooms and lounges, which feature large windows with natural light.
Mayendia: We brought natural light into as many spaces as possible. For example, a below-grade waiting area is illuminated by a generous skylight while the upper-level sky lobbies have broad views to the surrounding neighborhood. The cancer infusion “mobility zone” combines a sense of community with spectacular views and abundant light.
Corridors often end with a window and a view out to the neighborhood. Finally, the main lobby is a light-filled inspiring space that uplifts the arriving patient and family members.
How does the project’s art program help build a connection between the facility and the community?
Alissa Friedman: From our early conversations with the team, everyone agreed that the art should reflect the diverse Brooklyn community that the hospital is serving. Brooklyn is made up of approximately 2.6 million residents and is one of the most culturally diverse metropolises in the United States.
Building on NewYork-Presbyterian’s belief in the healing power of art, we built a collection from the ground up, which highlighted the work of emerging and established artists who predominantly work or reside in Brooklyn. Additionally, the hospital’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, and outreach provided a curatorial framework that guided us in our selections.
How did you integrate the works of art within the building architecture?
Friedman: We dedicated a lot of time to looking at the spaces and understanding how they would be used. We decided to concentrate the art in the public spaces that would see a lot of traffic or use, such as lobbies, the café, waiting rooms, hallways, and open-plan exam rooms.
We wanted the art to enhance the architecture and the patient/visitor experience, so we deliberately selected artworks that were bold and graphic in order to activate the public areas. For the smaller patient areas, we chose works that were quieter and more lyrical.
We tried to be holistic in our approach and create exhibition-like spaces where the artworks complemented one another as well as the architecture. As art can also help visitors mark their whereabouts, we varied the styles of art across floors.
Discuss the inspiration for “The Colors of the Neighborhood,” installation at the building’s entry?
Mayendia: The 20-foot-high focal point of the building’s exterior entry, “The Colors of the Neighborhood,” is our interpretation of the richness of the residential fabric of Park Slope and the diverse community that the facility serves.
Rendered in terra cotta baguette tiles, the mosaic of six different colors nods to the variety of building colors afforded by the sun-dappled streetscapes of brownstone Brooklyn, and is but one illustration of how the Center is truly of its context.
As healthcare institutions must be a part of breaking down barriers and welcoming community, this facility seeks to be a part of that solution.
The jurors appreciated the timeless aesthetic of the facility. How did you approach the interior design?
Peters: The client wanted a building that was not only beautiful and sophisticated, but also timeless and sustainable. The overall concept started with references to an “urban park.”
Wood paneling and textural ceramic tile give a tactile quality to the space. The neutral colors of the finishes are supplemented with bright colors from the artwork and furniture. Built-in millwork with workstations and a curvilinear ceiling design in the café give a feeling of being in a high-end coffee shop instead of a healthcare setting.
Anne DiNardo is executive editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the Design Showcase winners during an awards luncheon at the 2022 HCD Conference + Expo, taking place Oct. 8-11, in San Antonio. The program will also honor the winners of Healthcare Design’s Remodel/Renovation Competition and Rising Stars programs. For more details and to register, visit HCDexpo.com.