Colors, Lights and the Arctic Slope

September 2013. The new Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital in Barrow, Alaska opens the doors. Right from the beginning this hospital is a milestone in the arctic slope healthcare. I was touched to see this result driven by the ASNA Arcitc Slope Native Association.

And I was touched because I have been there. I will never forget my visit in Barrow. Observing polar bears, receiving the dip-your-toe into the arctic sea certificate, experiencing the traditional blanket toss.

Back to the hospital.

The profile:
– size 10’126 m3, two-story structure
– costs USD 160m
– licensed 14 beds critical access hospital;
14 outpatient exam rooms, 10 single inpatient rooms – including 2 labor and 2 delivery
– 4 emergency beds
– level IV trauma center
1 minute outside 360 degree view.

Performance 2014: 11’110 primary care visits, 9’071 emergency care visits, 6’681 specialty clinic vistits, 1’327 physical therapy visits, 89 cat scans for village patients, 19 babies delivered. The Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital offers a lot of services.

Award 2014: Honor Award for Excellence in Design by American Institute of Architects (AIA) Alaska
Award 2015: Winner, Healthcare category – International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Great Plains chapter IDEA Awards
Remarkable: First hospital in the U.S. built under the Title V new construction program which establishes a permanent self-determination program within Indian Health Services, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Architects: RIM Architects
Healthcare Architects: HDR Inc.

Now to the stunning details.
About COLORS. Prepare for unexpected details.
…drawing from the landscape with its dynamic ice patterns, low light angles and the dancing colors of the Aurora Borealis.
Designed to respect and celebrate the Inupiat culture, the cycle of life.
barr2         barr3

And then the LIGHT concept.
Lights under the hospital and lights through the windows.
To mitigate the effects of limited sunlight, the two-storey atrium lobby glows with translucent materials and the underside of the building is lit, making the hospital a literal beacon for the community.



This beacon of light effect (scroll down for the Samuel Simmonds report here).

WHAT – if the light concept of a hospital in the night, maybe a remote hospital, is sending out a signal. A signal of trust, reliability, feeling secured, having faith for the future, knowing that healthcare is there. A light concept in combination with outstanding architecture that provides a complete different perception of the hospital.

It is exactly that momentum the new Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital is delivering. I think there is much more to develop, research and re-adjust we think about building hospitals.

More than well done, ANSA, RIM and HDR.

Maurice Codourey

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