also take Mr. Pei back to the historic roots of his style.
The Guggenheim Pavilion, the first hospital designed by one of our leading
modernists, recalls to mind that modern architecture was initially something of
a public health crusade. Bright, open buildings, it was believed, would nurture
healthy, active bodies. Glass curtain walls would rid buildings of germs and
banish depressing gloom. Rationally planned cities would combat contagious
diseases. When critics complained that modern buildings looked like hospitals,
in other words, they weren't far off the mark....The
Guggenheim Pavilion, designed in association with Ellerbe Associates, is a
building of uncommon clarity in more than one sense: lucid in organization,
lustrous in space.
"These qualities derive from the recognition, shared by Mr. Pei and Mount Sinai's administration, that hospitals serve two
groups of people with very different needs. For hospital staff, they are work
places that require a vast inventory of technical equipment and equally vast
spaces to house it. Patients and visitors, on the other hand, crave relief from
the stress of illness and unfamiliar surroundings.
the psychological needs of patients are given short shrift. Public spaces are
limited to corridors clogged with trolleys, wheelchairs and oxygen tanks;
headache-inducing elevator lobbies, and cafeterias where the design competes
with the menu for inhospitality. Wisely, Mount Sinai
recognizes that it takes more than first-rate staff and advanced technology to
serve patients well. They've invested in a design that enhances their
hospital's public dimension.
key to the building's clarity is a circulation system that knows when to bring
patients and staff together, when to serve them separately. A slim rectangular
block, housing doctors' offices, runs the full length of the 100th Street site from Fifth to Madison. It provides a
circulation spine for hospital staff and for patients returning to their rooms
from intensive care. Corridors for visitors and recovering patients line the
south walls of the atriums. Instead of running an obstacle course around
doctors, nurses, IV stands and dinner trays, visitors walk through light, space
and landscaping. Patients are housed in three 11-story towers set at angles to
the long block and joined to it at their corners. The atriums occupy leftover
space between the towers. This configuration allows for superb views from each
of the hospital's 650 beds. Rooms along the Fifth Avenue side command magnificent
vistas of Central Park. Now that's intensive
also helps the building work as urban design. From the Fifth Avenue entrance, a sequence of
light-filled public spaces unfolds, leading through the south atrium to a
glass-enclosed plaza beyond. This enclosure, which lifts pedestrian circulation
from underground corridors into the light of day, links the pavilion to the Annenberg Building, an austere rusted steel
high-rise built in 1967. Besides knitting together Mount
Sinai's disjointed campus, the plaza brings the outdoors into the
pavilion, an inversion that marks this as a modern building in the tradition of
Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. And the interplay between interior
and exterior space creates an apt metaphor for the hospital as a place where
people withdraw and prepare to rejoin the life of the city.
"Mr. Pei's use of materials
elaborates on the interplay between interior and exterior space. Within and
without, walls are made of the identical brick, a buff color tinted in shades
of yellow, violet and gray. With the texture and tone of pale suede, the brick
catches the light and gently suffuses it through the windows of patient rooms
that face into the atriums.
"The building's exterior is as contextual as a large
modern building can be in a neighborhood of prewar residential buildings. Its
brick and limestone walls echo the facades of apartment buildings along upper Fifth Avenue. Floor
slabs, expressed on the building skin, are visually joined to the windows with
limestone trim, an appealing if most unmodern hint of the classic Georgian
terrace. Notches formed where the towers join reduce the building's bulk."