James Woolum, ZGF partner, may be most visible for high-profile workplace projects. Unforgettable is his transformation of the historic Spruce Goose aircraft hangar to Google headquarters in Los Angeles. Yet he is equally invested in healthcare, the subject near and dear to our hearts in these days of a global pandemic. “I’m a strange blend,” he notes. While the Cedars-Sinai Ventana, Tarzana Oncology and Internal Medicine clinic, just north of L.A., is not directly COVID-19 related, the recent project adheres to universal health and wellness precepts Woolum knows well. After all, he’s been working with Cedars for 15 years and ZGF, in fact, has had the vaunted provider as a client for 20.
The clinic, occupying 30,000 square feet on the third floor of an existing medical facility, comprises two main components. One is a series of clinical pods for doctor-patient exams. The other is the treatment sector for infusions where patients can remain for up to eight hours. No doubt, a stressful situation all around. Woolum centered on ameliorating it to the best of his ability. “Humanistic, uplifting, and supporting the human spirit” were his words. “How does design give people a sense of calm and heal the soul?”
The key? Materials, daylight, and embracing a hospitality vibe where possible. For starters, the architect pulled most functions back from the south-facing window wall to dedicate the area to infusion bays, 22 of them to be exact. While they are open pods fostering a sense of community, their enclosures simultaneously offer a modicum of privacy. The custom millwork decidedly resembles warm wood, but for durability, cleanability, and bleach resistance, it is plastic laminate with solid surfacing used for counters and edges. Meanwhile, lounge chairs in leather-like vinyl hug the window wall as options for caregivers and patients getting post-treatment hydration. Opposite, the undulating interior wall is seemingly aglow with an ombré abstract suggesting sunrise. Created by ZGF’s graphics studio, the design was digitally printed on Acrovyn, a plastic wall protection material. Another nod to healthcare materiality.
For public areas, Woolum’s hospitality cues hint at luxury. The reception desk, separated from the infusion zone by translucent glass, is of onyx, white oak, and walnut with bronze trim. The main waiting area, bright and warm with cove lighting, has a slated hemlock “awning” above plenty of comfy seating, custom brass and stone tables, and pops of color from accessories.
Special care was given to circulation around exam rooms. “They’re not in the midst of everything else,” Woolum explains. “They have separate circulation paths.” Further, entry to each comes from double-sided pocket doors. The patient’s pathway is day-lit, hugging the windows; the physician and care-giver enter from the more clinical environment on the other side.
Woolum credits client involvement, specifically medical director Dr. Johnny Chang and Mary Clare Lingel, VP of strategic integration, for the project’s success. “They were very involved, intent on transforming practice. They came to the ZGF office where we had full-scale mockups.” As for the rest of us, who knew that precepts of medicine would become so tied to the workplace, instrumental in both their opening and future.