Shaw Contract Design Awards 2018 - Church Health


In 2012 our non-profit client’s founder and CEO stood on site, looking across the second-floor expanse, a concrete slab shimmering with pools of algae-covered rainwater. Glancing up at the design team he asked, “am I crazy?” As the largest founding tenant for the unique rehabilitation of a 1.3-million-square-foot warehouse building into a health/wellness, arts, and education “vertical urban village,” the client had a vision of infusing a population in need with hope and healing. The charge for the design team was to take the vision he had nurtured, from the non-profit’s inception through its 30-year history in a collection of buildings, into this single location, more than doubling their capacity to care for patients. A host of services for holistic health and well-being are made available to the working un- and underinsured by volunteer physicians and staff, to fulfill the client’s inter-faith mission to “care for one another.” The client for warmth, comfort, inspiration, a sense of welcome for all, and good stewardship of their resources. They asked for efficiency, practicality, and vision for the future. In 2017 the client moved into their new 130,000-square-foot home. Expanding across three floors of the building and connecting with two 10-story atria, it offers 62 medical exam rooms, 24 dental chairs, a full-fledged fitness facility, physical and occupational therapy, six-station demonstration kitchen, commercial kitchen, chapel, community room, child care, and even a radio station… all offered at no or minimal cost to promote better health throughout the Memphis community.

The primary point of entry for most visitors is through the building’s west atrium, where a monumental ribbon stair punctuates the space and defines the entry to the first-floor welcome center and clinic, the second-floor fitness facility, medical and dental clinics, and the third-floor behavioral health and administrative offices. The stair becomes an aspirational and motivational blur of activity. People and spaces connect across the atrium to each other and to the outdoors in a framework of transparency that showcases wellness happening throughout. The materials and color palette are nature-based and revolve around the client’s Model For Healthy Living. Commonplace materials are incorporated with integrity to accomplish durability, cost savings, and an artful outcome. While each is unique in purpose and configuration, the waiting areas share a common vocabulary of plain sliced birch plywood, distinctive clusters of globe lighting, a choice of seating sizes, and a sense of both transparency and connectedness—through daylit windows, translucent acrylic panels, and brilliant views into the atrium. Clinics are planned in self-sufficient, interconnecting pods; the palette is warm white, with a shadow grey subtly designating staff areas and a single wall of gradient monochromatic hue. The exam rooms, organized with views to the outdoors, are meditative and quiet, aesthetically and acoustically. Together, the design elements establish a unique, self-orienting language within each patient area. The project aesthetic is grounded by the carpet, building upon shifting lines that blur boundaries and soften edges, even as the color of the daylight constantly shifts through the space.

Kristi Slipher