WHR Architects Is Helping to Heal Hearts with Two New Projects

02/14/2013 | WHR Architects

On Valentine’s Day, a holiday that honors the emotional character of the human heart, project teams at WHR Architects are celebrating the completion of two recent projects designed to help heal physical hearts.  The Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital located on the campus of Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, Texas opened in December 2012, bringing a new, state-of-the-art, cardiac care facility to the region.  Also late last year, WHR completed a specialized lab for Doris A. Taylor, PhD, Director of Regenerative Medicine Research at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s in Houston’s Texas Medical Center. 

Named after Louis and Peaches Owen, philanthropists whose record donation of $18 million helped to construct the 154,000 square foot facility, the hospital includes 72 new private patient rooms, a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, cardiac surgical suites and comprehensive cardiac, thoracic, vascular and pulmonary services.

“From the beginning, the Mother Frances Hospital team made it clear that they wanted to build a world class facility that would combine the latest technology and equipment with a welcoming, timeless design in order to deliver the highest quality of cardiac care,” said Tushar Gupta, AIA, who led the design for WHR.  “We benchmarked the top heart hospitals in the country including the Cleveland Clinic and Baylor Heart to evaluate what would best support the hospital’s vision.”

“This facility is something that Tyler and all of East Texas can be very proud of,” said John McGreevy, CEO of the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital. “When I came to Trinity Mother Frances in 2011, I was very impressed with the amount of research and planning that brought forth this beautiful facility. I have toured many heart hospitals in the country and the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital is truly world-class.”

Among the key decisions was the incorporation of the modified universal bed model, allowing all aspects of pre- and post-operative cardiac care to be delivered in one room, including all nursing and technology resources necessary for the highest level of care. As patients progress through the healing process, the resources of the patient’s room flex to meet the needs of the patient, rather than asking the patient to move through different units of the hospital. 

Special emphasis was given to the development of calming environment including meditative gardens, views to the outdoors, hospitality quality interiors and easily navigable space. Of special note is the chapel, wrapped in stained glass panel, whose oval form brings balance to the rectilinear architecture and creates a spiritual center for the hospital.
Dr. Taylor’s breakthrough research in “whole organ decellularization” — removing existing cells from hearts of lab animals leaving a framework to build new human hearts — won her international recognition and invitation to work at Texas Heart Institute (THI). While the square footage requirements for her new laboratory at the THI’s Denton Cooley building were not exceptional, the specifications for the 7,400 square foot lab were exacting.

“We listened carefully to Dr. Taylor and her team to understand the decellularization process and how the team worked,” said Jill Bard AIA, WHR’s project manager. “We asked lots of questions and even had her visit other labs we had designed in the Medical Center in order to create a customized lab bench that would best support this pioneering research.”

“Early in the design, I told the WHR team that I was a visual person and they responded with multiple images of other labs and layouts to help me see how we could work in the new space,” noted Dr. Taylor. “They learned how different our process was from other labs and together, we designed a new customized bench for the decellularization process.  WHR shared three-dimensional views of the lab design and the equipment so we could literally see how the space would function. And it really does.”

In addition to the labs, procedure room and conference area, the new space includes a biorepository. THI was recently selected as a the Biorepository Core Lab for Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network (CCTRN) to store, catalog and make stem cells available for approved research to laboratories throughout the nation.

“Researchers like Dr. Taylor and the administrators and clinicians at the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital are the sources of our inspiration,” said David Watkins, FAIA, WHR Chairman. “They cause us to raise the bar on our own work and allow us the opportunity to contribute to a new era of healthcare and wellness.”

WHR Architects is a full service architecture, interior design and technology planning firm. The firm’s commitment to critical thinking is balanced by an ingrained empathy that results in both improved project outcomes and positive working experiences for their clients. With over 130 people in Houston and Dallas, Texas, Washington DC, and New Jersey, the 33-year-old firm is working on projects throughout the US for top–tier public and private education and medical institutions. WHR was named the 2008 AIA Houston Firm of the Year and 2010 IIDA Texas/Oklahoma Pinnacle Firm of the Year. Learn more online at www.whrarchitects.com or follow @whrarchitects on Twitter.