Penn Presbyterian Medical Center

The Penn Advanced Care Pavilion (PAC) has a glazed facade with a printed terracotta screen that references the hospital’s existing structures. Photography by Halkin Mason Photography

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The Penn Presbyterian Medical Center (PPMC), which is part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) in Philadelphia, had not undertaken a significant new construction project in at least 25 years. The existing ambulatory and acute care interiors had become outdated, the circulation systems needed clarifying, and upgrades to the patient and family experience were necessary. UPHS—which includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and Pennsylvania Hospital, in addition to PPMC—mandated the move of its trauma operations from HUP to PPMC, and that provided the programmatic impetus for both renovation and new construction.

Philadelphia-based EwingCole was charged with the update and expansion of PPMC, an extensive architecture and interiors project that included the new six-story, $144 million, 178,000-square-foot Penn Advanced Care Pavilion (PAC), which has treatment areas for the critically injured on the ground floor as well as 40 inpatient critical care beds on upper floors.

Elegantly connecting old with new
The new PAC building exterior boldly establishes a modern presence with a ribbon of gray and slate-colored masonry and metal panels that defines the building’s base, wraps upward and over to frame an expanse of glass lining the patient rooms, and ultimately screens the penthouse and helipad at the top of the building. The cool hues of the ribbon juxtapose a printed terracotta screen on the glazing, which echoes the material palette of the existing buildings onsite.

For the interiors, “We chose a hospitality-driven approach that brought issues of planning and design together,” says Saul Jabbawy, director of design and senior project manager at EwingCole. A new corridor—connecting spaces within the new PAC to an updated reception area in the 1970s-era main building, which had also been designed by EwingCole—is a vital organizing element in plan. Marking this transition from existing to new, a dark wood-plank ceiling gives way to a white Arktura one; its cloud-like form undulates over a new concourse, where a terrazzo floor offers a literal and figurative departure from the old reception area’s standard-issue beige tile.

Visible from the concourse through floor-to-ceiling windows is a beautiful new outdoor landscape created by locally based landscape architecture firm Cairone & Kaupp. Etched-glass panels relocated from the previous reception area make up a portion of the corridor’s exterior wall. Columns clad in dark wood offset groupings of lounge chairs in rust leatherette, infusing the corridor with warmth and vibrancy in a “sophisticated and timeless way that does not automatically rely on this year’s trendy accent color,” says Jabbawy. A winding stair at the back of the corridor leads to a second-floor waiting area, connecting visitors with patients.

In addition to carving out the new trauma center on the first floor of PAC, the designers consolidated the radiology department to allow outpatients to access it from both the center and the new corridor. On the corridor side, chairs are featured in burnished orange, and terrazzo and opaque glass is again implemented. Behind the reception area, a black-and-white image of the Philadelphia skyline offers a welcoming beacon. The photograph also hints at a clever wayfinding scheme used throughout the building: On each floor, a monochrome wall-size photo with a color highlight is mounted at the elevator bank to provide a unifying graphic thread.

Bold graphic elements, such as room numbers, are painted in robin’s egg blue on the floors to aid in wayfinding, and the same bright color appears as a recurring accent in patient rooms, which feature hospitality touches such as an iridescent feature wall, a bulletin board, and a small desk. A terracotta-hued frit overlay on the windows offers a nod to the red brick of the original building, while providing a privacy screen for patients.

In addition to updating the finishes within existing spaces, another challenge for EwingCole was to reconfigure the circulation system, which had ambulance drop offs, outpatient access, and incoming medical shipments virtually bumping into each other as they passed through the same channels. In a sense, as Jabbawy points out, much of EwingCole’s work revolved around unclogging the hospital’s arteries. “Elegant furniture and beautiful finishes would not make a bit of difference without addressing these space planning limitations,” he says.

Establishing a new face for UPHS
Penn Medicine’s trauma program had been serving about 2,200 patients a year, with specialties in orthopedic and cardiac care making it a natural choice as the home for the relocated trauma units, according to Alyson Getty Cole, associate executive director, chief patient experience officer at Penn Presbyterian. Since the move, it now serves approximately 2,800 patients annually.

“All of a sudden, Penn Presbyterian became a robust, 24/7 face for the system,” says Cole. “We had the perfect opportunity to right a few design and planning wrongs, and we are very happy with how efficient this space has become,” she says. “There’s a real cultural component, too—something about the space adds confidence, like wearing new clothes. The staff has internalized this and so have the patients. It’s nice to see the validation that new design can echo the superior level of care that we have always offered.”

who Architect and interior designer: EwingCole. Project team: Bill Hawk; Stephanie King; Saul Jabbawy; Derek Molenaar; Bill Hawk; Kevin Cusick; Caitlin DiMarzio. Contractor: LF Driscoll; John Haught; Bill Shaeffer; Dave Schmidt; Peri Browne. Lighting: Carl Speroff. Engineering: Jason Fierko; Dan Kolowitz; Chirag Amin; Bruce Falkenstein; Jaime dela Rosa; Peter Welsh; Colleen Blackwell; Bryan Crawford; Pennoni Civil & Landscaping; Carl St. Pierre. Landscape: Cairrone & Kaupp; Joe Cairrone; Mike Urban. Graphics: PPMC; EC & Designtex. Acoustician: Metropolitan Acoustics; Seth Harrison. Spiral stair: Central Metals. Manufacturer/supplier: Kube. Equipment: ECRI Institute; Mike Linehan; Natalie Abell. Wind wake analysis: RWDI; Aimee Smith. Green roofs: Roof Meadow; Nate Johnson.
what Wallcoverings: WolfGordon; Innovations; Designtex. Paint: Sherwin-Williams. Laminate: Formica; Abet Laminatti; Nevamar. Drywall: National Gypsum. Masonry walls: Fizzano Brothers. Hard flooring: Yorie; Master Terrazzo Technologies; Stonres-RTZ. Resilient flooring: NORA; Polyflor; Amtico. Carpet/carpet tile: Interface; Shaw. Ceilings: USG; Arktura. Recessed lighting: Finelite; LiteControl; Pinnacle; Prescolite. Task lighting: Kenall. Fluorescent/ industrial: Columbia. Pendants/ chandeliers: Selux; SPI Lighting. Other decorative: Elliptipar. Hardware: Allegion. Door: Curries; Assa Abloy Glass. Architectural glass/glazing: Wausau; National Glass. Decorative glass panels/ partitions: Carvart. Window treatments: MechoShade. Seating: Cofco; AOE. Workstation/task/conference seating: Vitra. Lounge/reception seating: Stylex; Cumberland; Keilhauer; HBF. Patient seating: Nemschoff. Conference: KI. Cafeteria/dining: Versteel. Architectural/custom woodworking: JAFCO. Plumbing fixtures/fittings: Zurn; American Standard.