February 2, 2021

If Walls Could Heal… Rancho Mirage to Get New Medical Campus Featuring Healing Architecture

By Erika Z. Byrd
Patients expect medical offices to be sterile. Especially in today’s environment, it is essential. But looking sterile can be boring and is an entirely different matter – that is optional. Slated for construction in a few months, Rancho Mirage Medical Center will showcase how a medical facility can deliver healing not just by excellent patient care but also through architecture, landscaping, air circulation, materials and aesthetic design in an overall inspiring, healing environment.

About a year ago, Jambur Chandrashekar, MD, a founding member and owner of The Kidney Institute of the Desert, which has four valley locations – Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella – decided he was ready to relocate the practice’s Rancho Mirage office from Eisenhower Medical Center and build on land he owned on Bob Hope Drive. The 4.5-acre parcel is bounded by Ginger Rogers Road to the south and Landy Lane to the west. He contacted Rancho Mirage-based architect Narendra Patel, AIA of Patel Architecture, having worked with him years ago on the practice’s Indio building. Based on the size of the site, Patel encouraged Dr. Chandrashekar to consider building not just one but three buildings in a master-planned, medical campus approach. Some of the best logos and business ideas have begun on cocktail napkins, and it was a hand-drawn paper sketch Patel showed Dr. Chandrashekar that initially sold him on this campus concept – a sketch based on the geometry and beauty of the sunflower as inspiration for the new medical center’s layout.

The Kidney Institute will occupy a 13,369-square-foot two-story building on the campus. Also moving to the Rancho Mirage Medical Center is Desert Ear, Nose & Throat. Their building, also a two-story structure, will encompass 11,792 square feet. The occupant of the third building is yet to be determined.

MSA Consulting Guides Doctors in Land Development Process

After developing his vision for the Rancho Mirage Medical Center, Patel set out to bring the project to life and contacted the civil engineer firm of MSA Consulting, also based in Rancho Mirage, to assist his client with this unique endeavor.

“I think this will be an iconic project in the valley that will be noticed forever,” said Mike Rowe, vice president, director of business development and principal engineer at MSA Consulting. “It’s going to be something people will want to drive by and even stop and walk around. It’s going to add an eclectic look to the personality of the medical row along Bob Hope Drive and enhance the whole stretch.”

“This was our first opportunity to work with Dr. Chandrashekar and his son,” Rowe added. “They are doctors, and we’re engineers, so we walked them through land development, which is our arena. Even though we’ve been sequestered and many of our meetings were on Zoom, it was a great process. I enjoyed getting to know them.”

MSA Consulting has submitted site development plans to the city, which should be approved this month. Upon approval of building plans, which Patel estimates will be ready for submission by March, construction could begin as early as April.

Rancho Mirage Medical Center rendering

Desert Ear Nose & Throat will move to a two-story building on the new campus

What is Healing Architecture?

“The philosophy behind these buildings is a healing theme,” stated Patel. “People may ask, ‘what is healing architecture?’ It is a physical setting designed to support patients and families who are going through treatment – to connect architectural design with health and wellbeing through state-of-the-art science and technology.” He explained there are psychological and neurological factors he takes into consideration when designing the space. “You may not see it, but you will feel it.”

A key component of the Rancho Mirage Medical Center design is biophilic design, which aims to connect building occupants more closely to nature. “What I have designed here is an outdoor courtyard look inside the buildings. Patients can see the landscaping, see the sun, the blue sky, trees. During a dialysis treatment, for example, they have a choice to watch their phone, TV or just enjoy the views,” said Patel.

The Kidney Institute Excited to Improve Patient Experience

Naren Chandrashekar, MD, Dr. Jaumbur Chandrashekar’s son, is one of three nephrology specialists at the Kidney Institute of the Desert, and he oversees the day-to-day patient care operations. “We are so excited to offer our patients a more serene, healing atmosphere for their medical appointments and to receive dialysis treatments,” he said. “Especially as patients come three times a week for dialysis, this environment will be something they can look forward to as it will promote relaxation and be a calming, healing environment.”

Aerial View Of Rancho Mirage Medical Center

Rancho Mirage Medical Center site rendering

Natural Lighting and Fresh Air Part of Bioclimatic Design

Patel’s design incorporates as much natural lighting as possible and natural air – a rarity in typically tightly sealed medical buildings. Yes, even in our often-air-conditioned desert, it is possible to incorporate fresh air. Patel’s use of bioclimatic design does so in a way that is energy-saving while providing optimal thermal and visual comfort.

“When the weather is nice, we have designed an air circulation system that will allow the windows to be open and introduce fresh air from the outside and exhaust the used air to the outside. It’s continual natural air circulation, and it’s good for your body, and it’s highly efficient environmentally and uses less of the mechanical system of energy,” he explained.

Also the architect for the LEED-certified Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Center, Patel said the Rancho Mirage Medical Center will be built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) specifications or higher but noted this is an involved paperwork submission should the client want to officially receive that certification.

Other principles Patel incorporates into the healing design are to harmonize the space and the use of sacred geometry to influence the overall effect. He utilizes natural materials, textures, patterns and color to delight the senses; acoustics also play an integral part in the design.

After turning into the palm-tree lined entrance at Landy Lane, patients will be greeted by a 15-foot sculpture reminiscent of the popular Slinky toy, set amidst a planter bed. Two of the buildings will feature solar panels in as much a design element as for power. Another creative use of solar panels is two solar panel trellised parking shade structures, which will cover 67 of the 189 parking spaces.

Second Phase to Feature a “Living, Green Roof”

One of the center’s most unique aspects will be part of the second phase. A portion of the third building’s roofline will feature a “living roof,” also called a “green roof,” which features ground cover landscaping. The sloped rooftop will not only provide a natural esthetic visual, but it will also help with stormwater management, reduce the costs of heating and cooling, contribute to noise reduction and double the life of the roof membrane as it is protected from UV rays. TKD Associates of Rancho Mirage has worked with Patel on projects for years and will be responsible for implementing the medical center’s landscape design.

Featuring 9,741 square feet on one level, the third building is available for purchase for medical or commercial use. While the exterior architecture is designed, there is some opportunity for the owner to customize the interior space.

Beyond Modernist – Grown Up Modern

To call this new medical center’s architecture modern is not quite doing it justice. Patel likes to describe his work as “grown up modern” and said he designs what he thinks the Palm Springs modernists from the 1950s would be doing in this era if they were alive.

Healing Architecture is More than a Backdrop

Patel is hoping to inspire a trend. “I hope other architects who are in healthcare design will begin to take these factors into consideration. It’s not the easy way, but it makes a difference,” he said. One example he cited was the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay in San Francisco that has adopted this philosophy. Numerous published studies have demonstrated quicker healing for patients who had views of nature, or even art depicting nature, as well as the effect of architecture and lighting on healing depression. While the credentials, experience and care of medical specialists are of the utmost importance, the physical environment is clearly more than a backdrop and the physicians at Rancho Mirage Medical Center look forward to offering both.

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