2021 Showcase Merit Award: Future Forward


Refurbishment of an existing unused space in the basement of the Institute of Neuropsychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, covering 17,000 square feet Surgery and Innovation Training Laboratory (SITL), University of Illinois Chicago School of Medicine Created a futuristic simulation space for surgical students. The project received a Merit Award for its creative solutions to its unique location, including the introduction of skylights to bring in natural light and the creation of a visible presence for the school on the outside of the building. Internally, the ultra-flexible design allows appropriate settings to mimic today’s surgical space and predict how future surgeons might operate.This project is created by Cannon design with Bailey EdwardHere, Carlos Amato, Chief Designer of Health Marketing in the Southern California Office of CannonDesign (Los Angeles), shared his insights on some of the most famous design solutions of the jury.

Healthcare design: This project is a renovation of the basement in the existing space-without any visible exterior. Despite these conditions, how do you provide a sense of presence for the school outside?

Carlos Amato: This is a major design challenge. Because the laboratory is completely underground, the project cannot be seen publicly to passers-by on campus. One of the challenges we face is to strengthen the underground space and connect it with daylight and nature. The skylight, which is now part of the completed design, was not part of the original scope of the project; however, in conversations with the head of the laboratory, Dr. Pier Guilianotti, he often talked about how important it is for faculty, staff and students to connect with nature at work. This prompted me to have a series of dialogues with university leaders, and finally I came up with the idea of ??merging skylights. The reason why the skylight is pyramid-shaped is to introduce light into the underground space and provide privacy, so no one can look directly down like a flat skylight.

When the leader said that we can make skylights, I turned to how to get the most attention from a small skylight and create this sense of presence. I thought of the pyramids of the Louvre. The Louvre is also underground, and if there is no pyramid, you would never know that there is a world-class museum there. Therefore, I maximized the design opportunities to realize the pyramid. It gives people on campus a glimpse of the innovation below, while people in the simulation laboratory are a window to the outside.

Considering the existing site, what other challenges do you need to solve?

The basement space was initially dark, old, abandoned, and leaky. This is why it is available: no one wants this space. One of the initial challenges was to develop a creative way to manage mechanical air distribution systems and make them work in spaces with very low floor-to-ceiling heights. As the operating theatres and operating rooms we are trying to simulate usually have the highest ceilings in hospitals, this challenge becomes even more severe. So we must manipulate the mechanical system to achieve this.

Entering the basement is another challenge. The main public elevator leading to the laboratory is not suitable for the entrance of the world-class simulation center, so we have carried out a comprehensive upgrade and transformation of the system.

Although it is not a design challenge, it is difficult to convince employees and surgeons that we can turn such a humble space into a center of cutting-edge research at the beginning. We must create exciting and correct visual images to help them understand that this will be an extraordinary space where they can perform surgery and innovation in this field in the foreseeable future.

What does this type of environment require in terms of the space and infrastructure required to support equipment/technical requirements?

The most difficult aspect of this space design is also the most inspiring and most valuable. The leadership of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) asked us to design a space where the smartest people can experiment and simulate the unknown future reality. Through extensive cooperation with surgeons, educators, and others, we can achieve success, all of whom are imagining the future frontiers of surgery and what we should reimagine and train now.

The project team must replicate the surgical space of the traditional surgery that exists in the world today, and then create the other extreme, which can model and simulate the unknown future surgery and process. This is why we draw inspiration from theater design. In a theater, you have to set up a stage for someone to build the content they are trying to recreate. It combines the world we know and the world we don’t yet know. The central space of the laboratory is the place where these two worlds collide, and the surrounding area is the support space for meeting rooms, lockers, lounges, etc.

Keeping the main areas used for simulating surgery and testing new equipment as open as possible is key. We want to ensure that the space can be adjusted infinitely (if we use theater comparison, the settings change). Just as the space next to the theater and behind the stage can be quickly changed to scenes, sets or new costumes, the Innovation Lab also has similar spaces that allow surgeons and students to change different equipment to test them, see what happens when working together, or performing A complex operation that requires a lot of equipment and personnel. These spaces are adjacent to the main surgical area, so there is almost no time wasted in these transitions. The creative possibilities seem limitless.

How do you meet the specific needs of the curriculum and overall plan through design?

For UIC to maintain a groundbreaking surgical plan, this space needs to push the limits and be able to continue to be creative. It aims to create the “surgeons” of the future. Surgeons are not only clinicians, but also computer scientists, medical technology engineers, and inventors. The adaptability of the laboratory allows the surgical plan to adapt to various learning and easily adjust its goals and priorities.
This may be just another simulation center, but the uniqueness of this project is the type of collaboration that can bring innovation, requiring you to integrate all the different fields inside and outside of medicine to promote innovation. The space we create is done through the lens of “surgery”. Before, when surgeons were in the operating room, all they did was surgery. We have created an environment that integrates all the fields required to advance surgery. It is very important for students to integrate into this process and witness and participate in collaboration in real time.

The mission of SITL is to promote simulation and surgical education. As doctors, researchers, educators and business partners, they can imagine, experiment and help create the space of the future operating room, and allow students and surgeons to receive the latest training. Robots and minimally invasive surgical tools. Surrounding the main laboratory are classrooms, research spaces, imaging, 3D printing, remote surgery, artificial intelligence interaction, and traditional surgical spaces with cutting-edge audio-visual technology.

What inspired the interior design approach of this project?

When we started this project, Dr. Giulianotti and the director of the laboratory, Dr. Leo Chen, wanted to create a space that conveys a futuristic feeling, rather than an ancient academic medical feeling. It must give a feeling that people are entering the future of medicine, a place where cool things have been invented and the latest and greatest things are always discussed. Near the entrance of the laboratory, we have a big screen where the laboratory broadcasts and communicates what is happening behind the house. This is a brand strategy to share what is happening in the laboratory. Adjacent to the skylight is a conference room, which is characterized by a complete green wall, otherwise the basement would not exist. The use of warm wood throughout the reception area and multi-functional area also brings a sense of underground nature and contrasts with the bold graphics and lighting used in different laboratory and classroom spaces.

Jennifer Kovacs Silvis is the editor-in-chief of Healthcare Design.Her contact information is [email protected].



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