We don’t want to be less sick. We want to be well.

The traditional process for those recovering from debilitating illness or injury when learning to return back to daily life after a major hospital stay is one that typically involves routine visits to doctor’s offices, outpatients procedures, and ongoing therapy. The healing process centers on quantifiable improvement where, more often than not, one’s ailment is treated, rather than their overall wellbeing. Given our approach toward the inevitable demand for new healthcare buildings, this project is an investigation of the spaces needed for a new urban step down facility for those emerging after treatment from physical trauma such as stroke, paralysis, or sports injury.

But it is not a hospital.

Rather, it aspires to be a fun, healthy, and active center for the short term resident as well as become a new visible center for public wellness in downtown Vancouver. It is a place where it’s easy to breathe, where community values are embodied, and where public and private relationships surrounding health are blurred.

“Fostering Recovery” tells a simple story: wellness is achieved through harmonizing mental and physical health in environments that make people happy.

The Vancouver Challenge

The city of Vancouver, Washington has seen new residential, commercial, and civic projects coming to the downtwon core and adjacent waterfront, however little has been done to address the wellness of its occupants. 14% of the population presently reports living with a permanent disability, and the needs are increasing for an aging population. With an unceasing demand  for care of illness and injury, efforts must be made to address the connectivity of global advancements in health care with the regional demands and resources.  The downtown is a hub for the two medical centers in southwest Washington and this center proposes combining resources and practices (both sustainable and technological) for a new type of holistic healing at a smaller, more specialized scale.


The Programmatic Challenge

The programmatic heart of a rehabilitative project surrounds the spaces for physical therapy and activity. In most rehabilitative settings, specialized gyms and professionals expedite benefits to a patient that include the reduction of stiffness, improved mobility, decreased pain, and increased energy and appetite. Yet healing can also occur away from the artificial environment of patient beds and therapy rooms, and within the urban environment that patents must ultimately return. By maintaining interest in areas that are more common to daily routine, the psychological benefits are increased, such as heightened confidence in oneself.

The delight that lies between boredom and confusion of a new space is found within the public realm, both in the building and in the surrounding neighborhood. It begs the question: why be stuck indoors when you can be out where all the excitement is?