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Healthcare, Southern-style: River Region Medical Center by Earl Swensson Associates

Vicksburg, Mississippi: A medical center that serves a large population pays attention to the details that will make individual users - patients and staff - comfortable.

by ArchNewsNow
June 10, 2002

Reported to be Mississippi's single, largest hospital building project in the state's history, the new 391,196-square-foot River Region Medical Center in Vicksburg opened its doors to patients in April. Nashville architectural firm Earl Swensson Associates, Inc. (ESa) designed the six-story replacement hospital, which is a product of the merging of the former Vicksburg Medical Center and ParkView Regional Medical Center. The new center, with 51 physicians on staff, is equipped to service the regional area of 17 counties with a population of over 139,000.


"The design of the new facility streamlines operational expenses and takes Vicksburg to a technologically advanced level comparable to many top providers in the nation," says Richard L. Miller, FAIA, ESa president. "The hospital is designed to cost-effectively assimilate into the culture and community of the historic town of Vicksburg," he says. "The focus is on convenience for patients and staff efficiency."


The exterior architecture creates visual interest in its stepping of different levels and planes and in the backlighting of the focal window as the building embraces the circular entry. Banding on the exterior EIFS façade appears to change color in different lighting. A fountain in the grassy median fronting the circular entry canopy adds a welcoming tone.


Exceptional outpatient access is centered on the open two-story lobby with a focal skylight. Separate access points for inpatients and outpatients produce a minimum of cross trafficking. The lobby brings the outdoors inside to create a comfortable, calming, healing environment that puts both patients and visitors at ease. The open design enables easy visual identification of patient and visitor destination points from almost any point within the lobby.


Aesthetically, the lobby's columns and fountains hark back to the traditional southern architecture of the region. The familiarity of the style of design indigenous to the Vicksburg area helps lessen anxiety a patient or family member might normally feel when entering a medical facility. The Vicksburg influence is recalled in the graceful monumental stairway, stately columns, and lattice-style grid-work crowning the gift shop for an open-air effect. The centerpiece fountain provides the soothing effect of flowing water. Lush plantings enhanced by natural lighting allows seasonal plantings, and also helps create healthy air.


The dining area offers physical and audio privacy, while maintaining a visual connection to the corridor. Noise levels are kept to a minimum by an acoustically treated ceiling and upholstered banquets. The flexible dining setting is broken up into pods, and is easily rearranged to combine both inside and outside dining. Molding details are reminiscent of colonial homes in the region.


Inter-connected physicians’ offices allow physicians who need to be near their patients in the hospital to locate their practices there. Departments are located to provide a convenient, efficient flow pattern for both staff and patients. The architects used the sloping site as an advantage for opportunities to design both vertically and horizontally for future economical expansion. "Our intention was to design a facility adaptable to the continual changes and complexity of healthcare," explains Miller.


Bringing a higher level of women's healthcare to the region, the medical center houses Mississippi's first digital mammography equipment and eight spacious labor-delivery-recovery suites in The Childbirth Center. The pediatric registration space is a playful take on tugboats plying the Mississippi River in child-sized scale. Soothing greens and blues on the fishnet wallcovering and floor patterning that mimics small waves of water continue the aquatic theme. Portholes repeat from one separation wall to the other.


Nurses' stations in the central core allow clear sightlines down each patient corridor. Each floor's station has slightly different finishes and colors as well as desk and soffit configurations to better orient visitors in wayfinding.


The hospital has a total of 179 licensed beds. The patient rooms are on the perimeter of the building allowing each to have an exterior window and the healing aspects of natural light. The neutral palette combined with the soft warm wood cabinets contribute to a calming space.


"From its beginning until the moment the doors were opened to receive patients, the delivery of this new medical center was a team endeavor between the client, general contractor, consulting engineers, and ESa," Miller says. Bovis Lend Lease was general contractor for the project. Triad Hospitals, Inc. is the parent company of the River Region Health System.


American Health Facilities Development provided project management services throughout the design and construction process. "We were able to create an exceptional product on time and under budget," says Exley Hill, Vice President of Project Management, American Health Facilities Development. "The people-friendly environment has actually exceeded the expectations of the facility's staff and those of the community."


"Families turning to River Region Medical Center for care will be reassured and inspired by our medical staff's harnessing of this facility's technological advances for the benefit of their patients," says Phillip Clendenin, River Region Health System chief executive officer. "Tremendous resources have been applied toward making our hospital one of the most progressive facilities in the country, and the people of this community already are responding enthusiastically to that commitment."


Region Medical Center Owners: Triad Hospitals, Inc.; American Health Facilities Development, LLC

Architect/Interior Design: Earl Swensson Associates, Inc.

Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease, Nashville, TN

M/P/E Engineer: Phoenix Design Group, Nashville, TN

Structural Engineer: Stanley D. Lindsey & Associates, Ltd., Nashville, TN

Civil Engineer: CESP, Inc., Nashville, TN

Medical Equipment Planning: Medical Equipment Planning, Old Hickory, TN

Communications Planning: Gene Burton & Associates, Franklin, TN

Photography: ÓBob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing


Earl Swensson Associates provides design services in architecture, interior architecture, master planning, and space planning. Since its founding in 1961, ESa has designed over 8,000 projects globally, including healthcare facilities, community and educational facilities, senior living communities, hospitality venues, and office buildings. Over 80 percent of the firm's work is in the design of medically related facilities. Design expertise is also reflected in multi-family housing, libraries, and headquarters for religious and industrial groups. ESa is consistently ranked by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the top 10 healthcare design companies in the nation and this year has placed seventh in the nation.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
Architecturally, different levels and planes create visual interest in the River Region Medical Center.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
Banding on the façade appears to change color in different lighting; the fountain in the grassy median fronting the canopy sets a welcoming tone.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
The exterior of the patient tower can be seen through the skylight in the main lobby; a triglyph motif punctuates the skylight's base.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
The heliport's adjacency to the hospital's emergency department enables immediate response.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
In the two-story lobby, the grand stairway, columns, and central fountain take their cues from historic Vicksburg (southern) architectural forms.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
Lush plantings and natural lighting create a soothing, outdoor-like environment for the medical center's central core.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
The dining area provides physical and audio privacy, while still being visually connected to the corridor.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
The pediatric registration space is a playful take on tugboats plying the Mississippi River in child-sized scale.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
The individual ER admissions booths provide privacy for confidentiality. The desk-mounted "window panels" conceal computer equipment. Paned windows and moldings continue the traditional southern home theme.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
The ICU nurses' station has a clear sight line into the patient rooms. Different color treatments of each nurses' desk and the design of overhead drop-down soffits serve as visual cues for wayfinding.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
A nurses' station in the central core allows clear sightlines down each patient corridor. Stations have slightly different finishes, colors, and desk and soffit configurations to better orient visitors in wayfinding.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
All patient rooms have a window for the healing aspects of natural light, and a neutral palette combined with the soft warm wood cabinets to create a calming space.

(Bob Shimer/Hedrich Blessing)
The spacious cysto OR suite is equipped with ample lighting and abundant storage space.

First floor plan

Second floor plan

© 2002