Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing Opens Its Building Outward to Showcase Activity, Connect to Community

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

The last two years brought about an unprecedented number of across-the-board resignations, retirements and staffing shortages, fundamentally altering our definition of “work” and “the workplace.” But nowhere has the economy buckled more than in health care, specifically nursing. Shifts in pay scales and contract types to balance the current supply and demand are sending ripples across the industry, driving increased attention to nursing school enrollment––in terms of the volume and quality of the graduates. It is a necessity that America’s nursing education programs are equipped to deliver.

A DOUBLE-SKIN CURTAINWALL SYSTEM AT THE WEST FAÇADE CONTROLS HEAT GAIN, GLARE AND ALLOWS FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY IN SUPPORT OF THE GOAL OF SHOWCASING ACTIVITY WITHIN THE BUILDING. THIS CURTAINWALL ALLOWS STUDENTS TO GATHER, STUDY AND CONNECT ALONG THE GLASS IN COMFORT.

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing is one example of a school that has been redesigned to accommodate today’s generation of nurses and future nursing leaders. Hord Coplan Macht, in partnership with William Rawn Associates, embraced the university’s East Baltimore neighborhood throughout the upgrade and expansion project, seeking to strengthen the campus’ roots in the community by breaking down the former fortress-like facilities to foster greater inclusivity, celebrate the educational mission of the School of Nursing and improve the streetscape experience for all passersby.

Built in the early 1990s for a smaller student population and undergraduate-level coursework, the team reimagined the building to create a student-centric learning environment through new and updated programming. The 40,000-square-foot addition to the building replaced the adjacent School of Nursing House building for a more integrated student-faculty-administration experience centered around a new learning hub. The goal of the project was to reinvigorate the existing building through innovative space planning to maximize space utilization, create a student-centric environment, improve learning and research, minimize long-term operating and maintenance expenses, and increase overall efficiency within the school.

CAMPUS IDENTITY AND SENSE OF PLACE

Giving the School of Nursing a recognizable identity within the broader East Baltimore medical campus was an important aspect of the renovation. The entrance of the building was moved to a more visible location with an outdoor terrace. The café was intentionally located in the prime corner of the building to open up the building to the broader community and to increase the school’s connections to the local community. The café serves an important role
in East Baltimore; there are limited food-service opportunities in the neighborhood.

BEFORE: THE SCHOOL’S HIDDEN GEM HAD ALWAYS BEEN AN OUTDOOR COURTYARD SPACE, BUT IT HAD BEEN HARD TO ACCESS FROM THE INTERIOR.

A new hub was located adjacent to the beloved existing courtyard that was also redesigned as part of the project. This gives students, faculty and staff a place to gather outdoors, as well as within the abundant interior spaces of the hub. Because Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing is a top-ranked and international leader in nursing education, an important aspect of the project was to expand the conferencing facility within the school. The convening space was doubled in size and connected to the new hub with a barn door. This design allows the School of Nursing to more easily share its leadership and knowledge with improved physical connectivity.

DESIGNING FOR WELLBEING

A major focus of the project was to proactively promote health and wellness for students, faculty and visitors. In particular, the overall design was built to promote mental and cardiovascular health. To promote mental health, the team created a holistic design focused on employing biophilic design strategies that create spaces that are connected to the outdoor courtyard and utilize patterns from nature. To support cardiac health, a decision was made not to incorporate another elevator in the project. A grand new stairway weaves its way from the hub up through the building to encourage the stairs use. The stairway is open, visually interesting and conducive to stopping to talk, encouraging students and faculty to move more and interact with each other. It was designed and located to showcase the life of the school and provide views of East Baltimore. This is in sharp contrast to the existing building layout, which was more inward focused. Better physical and mental health leads to deeper, more meaningful and more engaged learning.

STUDENT-CENTRIC SPACES

A SEQUENCE OF OPEN STAIRS CREATES A DELIBERATELY WINDING PATH THROUGH THE BUILDING, LEADING STUDENTS PAST STUDY AREAS WITH VIEWS AND DAYLIGHT.

A focus on student spaces extends throughout the renovation and addition. A sequence of open stairs creates a deliberately winding path through the building, leading students past study areas with views and daylight. In contrast to the more active hub, the Study Cube located on the third floor supports quiet study. Placed on the main façade, above the new entrance, the Study Cube celebrates the student-centered focus of the school, showcasing activity to the community.

A double-skin curtainwall system at the west façade controls heat gain, glare and allows for greater transparency in support of this goal of showcasing activity. This curtainwall allows students to gather, study and connect along the glass in comfort that would not be possible without this double-skin technology. Numerous collaborative study rooms, study booths and informal seating are strategically located throughout the building. The design team intentionally located these areas to break down the divide between the faculty and student domains that existed within the former building layout.

On the lower level of the building, a new informal student kitchen and lounge area is incorporated to allow students to gather.

PHOTOS: Robert Benson Photography, courtesy Hord Coplan Macht

About the Author

Paul Lund, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Paul Lund, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, a principal at Hord Coplan Macht, focuses on the programming, planning, design and management of collegiate facilities, including renovations to accommodate academic programs in existing facilities.

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