This week, the US department of defense full opened the new billion dollar Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. The facility will absorb some patients from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which ceased operations this month. Walter Reed had been heavily criticized, in particular by a 2007 investigation by the Washington Post which highlighted massive problems with the crumbling and poorly maintained physical infrastructure of the building.
The gleaming descriptions of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital couldn’t sound further than the bleak picture of crumbling shower-heads and molding wallpaper in the aging Walter Reed facility. The official webpage of the military boasts that “exam rooms feature colorful murals of flowers, boats, or water on their walls” while the head of the hospital explains to the local newspaper that the facility will be “visually stunning.” All manners of evidence based design have been considered and there is a true, unabashed emphasis on patient comfort with single rooms, “airport” style way-finding, and an attempt to incorporate nature. The Military Times has an excellent extended feature that offers 360 degree panoramas of private and public spaces as well as videos explaining various elements of the design process.
While there is nothing particularly innovative about the design of the new facility, it’s remarkable and inspiring to see the Department of Defense and the Military fully incorporating, embracing, and promoting existing research and placing a real emphasis on making patient comfort the center of the built environment.