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COMPLETE: RI Hospital Bridge Building

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Rhode Island Hospital connection nearing completion


Journal Medical Writer | September 27, 2004


Journal photo / Gretchen Ertl Finishing touches are under way at Rhode Island Hospital's new "bridge building," overlooking Dudley Street in Providence.

PROVIDENCE -- Rhode Island Hospital is nearing completion of its $69-million "bridge building" over Dudley Street, which will house a new emergency department and new operating rooms attached to a two-story covered garage.

The building is the most visible part of a massive renovation effort that started in 2001 and will continue into next year at the sprawling hospital complex, by far the state's largest.

Other projects, including a cancer-treatment center that is almost done and a proposed pediatric imaging center that still needs Health Department approval, bring the total renovation costs to nearly $100 million.

The new emergency department, scheduled to open in February 2005, will be twice as big as the current one, to accommodate the 83,000 to 85,000 visits anticipated for 2005.

The new operating suite will open in late January or the first week in February, with some adjacent renovations to be completed in May.

"In our view, we're six weeks behind schedule," said Fred Macri, executive vice president. "That's not much considering the two severe winters we had to work through."

This winter for the first time, the weather will be irrelevant: The building is enclosed, with most remaining work occurring inside. The garage (located on Dudley Street, where the parking lot used to be) needs only the ramp to the street.

Last February, the hospital opened its $13.5-million cancer center, consolidating all its cancer services into refurbished space on the first and second floors of the Ambulatory Patient Center. All that remains to be done is installing an exterior elevator connecting the two oncology floors with the radiation center on the lower level. That should be completed next month.

Since the renovations, the cancer center has seen a 16-percent increase in the number of visits; hospital officials expect 17,500 visits in the first year, up from the 15,000 in past years, Macri said.

Another phase of the project, completed a year ago, was moving some outpatient services, including a diabetes center and physical and occupational therapy, to the Coro Building at Hoppin and Point Streets. The hospital spent $6 million on renovations to the building, which it bought in March 2001 for $28 million.

Next on the agenda, at a cost of $10 million, is a pediatric imaging center that will be established where the children's emergency room is now. The center will offer MRIs, CT scans and other diagnostic tests in an environment tailored to children. The Health Department, which under state law must approve major hospital construction projects, is expected to decide on the plan this month or next.

The hospital borrowed $31 million to help pay for the emergency department and $9 million for the cancer center. But it hopes to collect enough money from donations to pay off that debt and then some -- so the hospital can borrow more for future projects. The latest work, Macri said, is only the first half of a 10-year development plan that includes replacing the older beds and beefing up the neurosurgery department.

The hospital has already raised $32 million from its regular donors (including nearly $1 million from employees), said spokeswoman Nancy Cawley. She said about 250 people came to a dinner on Friday kicking off an effort to collect an additional $68 million from the public.

In 2003, for the first time in many years, Rhode Island Hospital didn't lose money on operations. In the fiscal year that ends this Sept. 30, the hospital expects to see similar results -- a positive, if razor-thin, margin of 1 percent, Macri said.

"We're quite pleased," he said, "that many of our efforts of make the place more attractive are paying off just enough to keep ahead of expenses."

From The Providence Journal

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From a post of mine in another forum...

<snip> As a doctor, I have to say that hospital architecture in general is very disappointing and rarely adds to the flavor of their cities. This is especially true in New England, which seems to have been passed over by the brief and now largely expired trend towards interesting hospital construction (as construction in the increasingly financially squeezed medical industry grinds to a halt).

In Providence, the entire Rhode Island Hospital campus is quite unattractive (although there's some good landscaping), and its larger,neighboring APC building is a travesty (it looks like a dripping, wet sponge when it rains). Hasbro Children's and the flanking Co-op building at least have some spark and interesting night lighting, but the new connecting ER (the about to be completed "Bridge Building"), while clean, has no flavor whatsoever and is essentially a brick box. The old Providence VA has some majesty about it, but it is diminished by a new outpatient addition (which is actually somewhat interesting by itself in its modern design but unfortunately has no context or relation with the older structure to which it's surgically grafted). Roger Williams has a horendous 50's-70's addition. Miriam Hospital may be unique in having nothing at all even identifiable as architecture... It's just there.

Of Boston's many medical buildings, none has ever made an impact upon me, save for some intriquing Harvard research buildings and medical school structures. U-Mass's medical campus could be in any office park in the U.S., and Lahey Clinic is in an office park.

In New Haven, the Yale-NH hospital manages to be even uglier than Rhode Island Hospital, although there are a few interesting research buildings that, being research buildings, the general public will never see or visit.

In all, very disappointing. Shame on the members of my profession...

- Garris

Providence, RI

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From the Providence Journal, David Brussat nails the issue...

David Brussat: Architecture of the healing arts

01:00 AM EST on Thursday, February 3, 2005

THE SHAPE OF THINGS to come in Capital Center needn't be (alas) a matter of speculation. The level of beauty to be expected when new and old buildings are thrown together with minimal thought to context can be seen today, right here in Providence.

Heading north on Route 95, you can see it bursting forth on the left just before you reach downtown. A medical "edge city" has arisen over the past decade. As architecture, the complex in and around the campus of Rhode Island Hospital resembles the famously effective but infamously unaffordable system of American health care itself -- vast, rich, robust, diverse and fundamentally flawed.

But beauty is my beat, not health. This doctor-rich section of the city's Southside neighborhood is a great place for a colonoscopy, but its aesthetic prognosis is poor. It was not always thus.

After its founding, in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital was erected on the site of a quarantine building built in 1798 for yellow-fever patients. Providence architect Alpheus Morse designed RIH with two towered pavilions of red-and-white brick, the city's first "polychrome, High Victorian Gothic structure," according to the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. It opened in 1868.

I examined the commission's 1986 survey of Providence architecture and Rhode Island Hospital's 1988 history, To Meet These Wants, by Joseph Garland. They record the early growth of the campus. Buildings and additions all featured congenial architecture. To name a few: the Royal C. Taft Outpatient Building (1891), the George I. Chace Home for Nurses (1893), the Southwest Pavilion (1900), the Metcalf Solarium (1911), the Jesse H. Metcalf Building (1917), the Jane Frances Brown Building for Private Patients (1922), the Peters House (1931), and the Col. Joseph Samuels Dental Clinic (1931).

With help from the fat Journal archive of RIH photographs, I conjured up an image of the campus at its best. Sweet! That is, until the Potter Building for Children (1941) arrived, a bland brick structure verging on modernism. In 1955, a new and larger main building was completed, 11 stories of blank white brick with long horizontal window systems -- modernism rampant. Both of the main buildings, old and new, coexisted briefly. The old one, laced gracefully in ivy, was torn down in 1955.

A Journal aerial photograph from 1956 shows the site of the razed old main building behind the new one, which rises above a sea of forlorn old brick buildings that seem to know their time is up.

Alas, they were correct. The Samuels Clinic and the Southwest Pavilion are virtually the sole survivors. The clinic sits near Route 95, a small classical building with a huge archway, set in a sea of parking. As for the pavilion, you catch glimpses of it from a distance; close up, it is hemmed in by HVAC gear and modernist interlopers, such as the gargantuan Ambulatory Patient Center (1973), on which the pavilion's tower casts sad but elegant shadows.

An era gone, but, as I saw Sunday, not forgotten: The spirit of the old main building lives in a model 9 1/2 feet across. It sits in the living room of its creator, Ned Fontaine, a certified nursing assistant at RIH for two decades. What a work of art: It should be on display in the lobby of Rhode Island Hospital.

On Tuesday, I met Dr. Joseph Amaral, a specialist in minimally invasive surgery who has also been at RIH for two decades, and is now its president. He showed me around the campus, and explained that the hospital's newest buildings fit into a rational aesthetic progression. The transition from the white main building to the Hasbro Children's Hospital (1994) and the Medical Office Center (1994) reintroduces a dash of red brick, in memory of the original hospital building's historic polychrome.

We traded theories of architecture, batting around the shifting values of history and beauty as the new supplants the old. Twisting my arm, Amaral got me to concede that beauty was not the chief mission of a hospital. Consider the dilapidated, almost empty Southwest Pavilion. Sadly, a rehab is probably not in the cards. Nor would it do much good. Even a medical building cannot work miracles.

And more than a miracle is needed. Aside from several of the medical buildings off the RIH campus that bravely but belatedly attempt to reflect the spirit of a past long gone, the future looks bleak. Take the Bridge Building, an emergency-operating facility about to open. It is a huge, stark glass-and-brick modernist bridge over Dudley Street. How this fits into a rational aesthetic progression escapes me.

Granted, unlike Capital Center, RIH has no design-review process to ensure good architecture!

Maybe I am too cynical. Maybe I should be thankful. Maybe this part of town has been the "sandbox for the modernists" all along -- the outlet for bad architecture that might otherwise have been inflicted upon far lovelier neighborhoods. A comforting thought. And so a proper conclusion, perhaps, to a column about the architecture of the healing arts.

David Brussat is a member of The Journal's editorial board. His e-mail is: dbrussat [at] projo.com

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Don't know how I missed it, but this opened almost a year ago...

PBN 11/17/08: "Building around active hospital challenges Shawmut"


partial text:

"The $48 million project was a 91,660-square-foot addition, adding three floors to the top of the Providence building. Work was completed about three weeks ago after 14 months..."

I suppose this can be changed to "COMPLETE"

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