Houston, Texas — On Valentine’s Day, a holiday that honors the emotional character of the human heart, project teams at WHR Architects are celebrating the completion of two recent projects designed to help heal physical hearts. The Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital located on the campus of Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, Texas opened in December 2012, bringing a new, state-of-the-art, cardiac care facility to the region. Also late last year, WHR completed a specialized lab for Doris A. Taylor, PhD, director of regenerative medicine research at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s in Houston’s Texas Medical Center.
Named after Louis and Peaches Owen, philanthropists whose record donation of $18 million helped to construct the 154,000-square-foot-facility, the hospital includes 72 new private patient rooms, a cardiac intensive care unit, cardiac surgical suites and comprehensive cardiac, thoracic, vascular and pulmonary services.
“From the beginning, the Mother Frances Hospital team made it clear that they wanted to build a world class facility that would combine the latest technology and equipment with a welcoming, timeless design in order to deliver the highest quality of cardiac care,” said Tushar Gupta, AIA, who led the design for WHR. “We benchmarked the top heart hospitals in the country including the Cleveland Clinic and Baylor Heart to evaluate what would best support the hospital’s vision.”
Among the key decisions was the incorporation of the modified universal bed model, allowing all aspects of pre- and post-operative cardiac care to be delivered in one room, including all nursing and technology resources necessary for the highest level of care. As patients progress through the healing process, the resources of the patient’s room flex to meet the needs of the patient, rather than asking the patient to move through different units of the hospital.
Special emphasis was given to the development of a calming environment including meditative gardens, views to the outdoors, hospitality quality interiors and easily navigable space. Of special note is the chapel, wrapped in stained glass panel, its oval form bringing balance to the rectilinear architecture to create a spiritual center for the hospital.
Dr. Taylor’s breakthrough research in “whole organ decellularization” — removing existing cells from hearts of lab animals leaving a framework to build new human hearts — won her international recognition and invitation to work at Texas Heart Institute. While the square footage requirements for her new laboratory at the THI’s Denton Cooley building were not exceptional, the specifications for the 7,400- square- foot lab were exacting.
“We listened carefully to Dr. Taylor and her team to understand the decellularization process and how the team worked,” said Jill Bard AIA, WHR’s project manager. “We asked lots of questions and even had her visit other labs we had designed in the medical center in order to create a customized lab bench that would best support this pioneering research.”
“Early in the design, I told the WHR team that I was a visual person and they responded with multiple images of other labs and layouts to help me see how we could work in the new space,” noted Dr. Taylor. “They learned how different our process was from other labs and together, we designed a new customized bench for the decellularization process. WHR shared three-dimensional views of the lab design and the equipment so we could literally see how the space would function. And it really does.”
In addition to the labs, procedure room and conference area, the new space includes a biorepository. THI was recently selected as a the Biorepository Core Lab for Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network to store, catalog and make stem cells available for approved research to laboratories throughout the nation.
“Researchers like Dr. Taylor and the administrators and clinicians at the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital are the sources of our inspiration,” said David Watkins, FAIA, WHR Chairman. “They cause us to raise the bar on our own work and allow us the opportunity to contribute to a new era of healthcare and wellness.”