Jennifer Aliber

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On my very first day of architecture school, our professor looked at us and asked if we knew why we were all there. His response to his own question (the only response) was that architecture students and architects liked to make things--and though I had never thought about it that way before, his answer was then, and is now, absolutely correct. It is still the making of things, of plans and spaces that work, which I find most satisfying. What I have learned to appreciate in the practice of architecture is that it is the engagement with others - clients and collaborators - that provides emotional richness and brings it all to life.

Much of the challenge of healthcare planning lies in defining and prioritizing the key issues with the client--more problem stating than problem solving (though that follows). By way of example, during conceptual design with an academic medical center client, it became clear that while not all related departments or services could fit on a single floor, there were two workable models. The first was a 'procedural model' which aggregated all invasive and interventional spaces on the same level, with the understanding that as the distinction between the two lessened, adaptability, efficiency and cost effectiveness would be improved. The second was a 'critical care model' which consolidated all of the services for the most fragile and critically ill patients, such as the operating rooms, intensive care unit and anesthesia. My satisfaction came in facilitating a discussion of the implications, advantages and challenges of each model with a large group of physicians and administrators (numbering more than twenty-five). These were the people who were going to work in and live with their choices. For each client, my job is to make sure that all of the stakeholders understand the options and that the design process and, ultimately, the architecture will support and enhance their ability to serve their patients most effectively.


Backfill Space Planning Services
Duke University Medical Center

Heart and Vascular Institute
Carle Hospital

Bronson Methodist Hospital
Bronson Healthcare

La Clinica
Universidad de los Andes

Cardiovascular Center
University of Michigan Health System

Smilow Cancer Hospital
Yale-New Haven Hospital

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