Louise Braverman designed the C.V. Starr Hand Surgery Center as part of a new addition to St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, NY. The facility contains physicians' offices, a rare book library, a conference area and examination and therapy rooms. The architect wanted to create an atmosphere appropriate for a treatment and teaching center for hand surgery, so she emphasized hand-crafted work. Mahogany, complemented by bronze, was used frequently in the decor. Detailing was intricate, especially in non-treatment areas of the clinic. This was Braverman's first experience in designing a healthcare facility.
The C.V. Starr Hand Surgery Center, housed within a Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed new addition to St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York, is a hybrid installation. Not only is this a treatment center for a vast range of hand disabilities, but also it is an academic institution with a history of teaching and research spanning international boundaries. During the course of its 40-year history, the program, which, according to the project's architect Louise Braverman, is the oldest in the country, has trained more than 80 doctors in various surgical procedures, many of them developed under the program's aegis. In developing her scheme for the 5,000sq.-ft. project Braverman was thus obliged to address both the pragmatic considerations of medical technology plus development of an aesthetic that would bring ready association with academic excellence. Then too there was the human component. "Ultimately," she says, "this had to be a caring kind of environment to make patients feel secure."
Programmatic requirements called for offices to accommodate staff doctors and visiting fellows, examination rooms, a therapy center, administration/support spaces and an elaborate conference complex to function as the heart of the teaching/information exchange component of the facility. The conference room, fitted with screens for both slides and X-ray viewing, is serviced by a projection room equipped with a fully computerized audio-visual system. An adjacent rare books library completes the suite.
The word artistry crops up frequently in Braverman's conversation, and, indeed, the term is an apt one given the meticulous nature of hand surgery and the artistic potential associated with hands. The client, too, was taken by the association, and, in Braverman's words, "wanted something special and handcrafted" for the Center. Thus the project portrays a degree of finely wrought detailing--particularly in the non-treatment zones--that is usually foreign to health care institutions.
Mahogany in various species is used extensively for framing, woodworking and to articulate ceiling planes in the conference room. Complementary bronze, in rod form, details the conference room ceiling and is the basis for a unique signage system in the Center's hallways. Further use of the metal is made in sheet form as cladding for curved corridor sectors that tie a doctor's office to its adjacent exam room. Special too is the custom carpeting whose nautilus is the Roosevelt Hospital's symbol for hand surgery.
Although the project was funded by the C.V. Starr Foundation, Braverman's client was the hospital, not the Foundation. Interestingly, the architect is not a health care specialist; in fact, this is her first such installation. How did she penetrate this usually closed project category? Some of the doctors had seen her other work and obviously approved of it, she recounts. Though not terribly enlightening, this aspect of the story has a familiar ring. And what did she learn from this initial experience? "I learned that surgery--at least hand surgery--is tied to creativity. I never thought of it in those terms." Sharing credit with Braverman are Lillian Berindoague, Robert Bischoff and Gregory Ginter of the design team. PGE Mills was the architect of record. The installation was a year in construction; budget figures are classified.