A Hospital is a Machine for Preservation


Context – Domestic landscape. Image courtesy of the author

Scientists are now attempting to cure age like any other disease. As natural lifespans are extended according to these ambitions to limit death to a rare ailment, the hospital has become both the epicenter of advanced procedures and a new domestic space where generations are reunited. My project introduces and replaces parts and systems of a hospital like surgery to organs of a body, investigating the application of processes for life extension and preservation through four categories: context, data, diagram, and system. Using the now demolished Prentice Women’s Hospital by Betrand Goldberg in Chicago as the patient, this project explores how systematic changes under the aforementioned four categories could render this piece of architecture “immortal.”

A hospital rarely withstands one hundred years without demolition and only four in the United States are over one hundred fifty years old. This is partly due to expansion needs, adaptability issues, new technologies, and a growing and aging population in need of healthcare. The lifespan of hospitals are shrinking as the human lifespan is extending. With the urge to achieve immortality for both hospitals and humans what are the parts that might be replaced and what are the parts that need to be preserved? What are the things we are attached to and want to bring with us to this eternal life and what are the parts we find irrelevant? We recognize a building by what it looks like and how it functions, the skin and the spirit. So what is the vital makeup of the Prentice Women’s Hospital?

Prentice was built during an era of women’s rights movements in the United States and was one of the first hospitals to allow a father or loved one in the delivery room during childbirth. There are many reasons why so many people were disappointed with the demolition of the Prentice Women’s Hospital: what the building represented in a time of progress for equal rights, what it represented as a structural marvel using concrete construction systems that are no longer feasible, being the first to utilize BIM software, and its extremely effective organization respecting the relationship between nurse and patient.

The building was designed to be amended and added to. The addition of another floor and connective bridges extended its life another twenty years. According to the directors of the department, “it was always meant to be torn down,” as is true of most hospitals. In a time where one’s life span can be greatly extended and yet healthcare in the United States is still not a birthright, what does this revived or necromanced hospital represent? This is not so much a building where patients die or bear life, but a monument to eternal life–to survival and preservation. It is the cure to the illness of aging.


Context – Domestic landscape. Image courtesy of the author

As our age increases we find our age gaps decrease from our elders. We are again reunited with our families in the hospice setting. With that said, how can we introduce a domestic atmosphere universally relatable and still meeting the demands of a medical facility? The garden, an enclosed and controlled paradise is a symbol of civilization, the first form of agriculture and human manipulated nature. Dedicating regions of any hospital, be it greenhouse or outdoor, the garden caters to the longstanding desire for hospitals to welcome their patients and acknowledge their role as a temporary home or final resting place.


Data – Architectural as transdermal. Image courtesy of the author

The Prentice Woman’s hospital was one of the first structures to successfully utilize BIM software in its creation. Thus, the virtual representation of its architectural materials is preserved and does not decay, symbolically similar to storing stem cells in a cryobank. The data can be cloned and replicated, as well as applied to various printing and mold making processes to rebuild, repair, and potentially “genetically modify” Itself. This permits the building to circumvent physical mortality. This virtual data can be transcoded into multiple formats permitting interchangeable materials such as plastic, powder, bronze, marble, wood, etc. This is the same sensibility applied to 3D organ or tissue printing. A consequence of this, however, is that potential discrepancies are introduced by the various mediums and their 3D printer. For example: a CNC mill is limited to its cylindrical bit, so there are no vertically hard edges, and an ABS print can leave ridges and geometries as well as the removal of its structural support. Each material used has a set of processes that need to be taken under consideration and included into the time and cost of each print.

Diagram Centralized Patients-01-01
Diagram Nurse And Doctor Stations-01

Diagram – Patient to nurse reversed. Image courtesy of the author

The most effective strategies for space organization inside the hospital is a central nursing station with patient rooms surrounding it on all sides. Various shapes have been applied to approach the equidistant and efficient access by nurse to patient, with the intent to implement as many hospital beds without jeopardizing access from the nurses’ station. The diagram of quick access from one central point to another is not outdated for a hospital that caters to the immortal, but what must then be adjusted is the program, where the patient becomes the central figure and the various facilities and staff are to be stationed surrounding them. Taking a new understanding of age as a disease and healthcare as the act of restoration and maintenance of health, this hospital is always under construction, masked by a modular scaffolding-like gauze around a healing wound. In this prototype, system, program, equipment, and core are interchangeable, malleable and expandable, bringing a resonance to form acting as function.


Process – Bioactive environment. Image courtesy of the author

Some of the most important antibiotics, such as Penicillin, come from mold. Instead of prescribing both patients and staff with antibiotics, which are intense in nature and cause stress on the immune system, the hospital is designed with an air-filtration system emitting mold vapor. The mold contained within the walls will act as an environmental bacterial elimination system. The molds would be bioengineered to eliminate and inhibit Staphylococcus, Streptococcus & MRSA bacterial growth. Furthermore, the agar growth medium would be designed to only promote the growth of beneficial molds and inhibit the growth of harmful ones. This way the environment of the hospital itself aids in keeping a patient “well” vs. overprescribing medications that are harmful for those with a weakened immune system.

Mold is generally seen as something that makes people sick. However, specific types of mold can be beneficial to people with medical conditions. With recent advancements in agar growth mediums, it is now possible to manipulate the growth of mold. This is done by the addition of chemicals, salt, & dyes which limit growth to only specific molds, and completely inhibit the growth of others. This same system of controlled growth can be used to regulate the beneficial bacteria targeting molds. They can aid in slowing & maintaining growth to an appropriate schedule, such as knowing that the walls will need to be stripped of old agar and replaced every six months.