Pier 54 Hospital

Submission entry in 2016 UIA Hyp Cup International Student Competition in Architectural Design, 2016

with Suhan Na


The hospital is often lamented as a condition in which architecture is subsumed to the vacuum of public health codes, spatial economies and budgets of mass production, but evolving demographics and outlooks on institutional healthcare are challenging these presumptions. More than ever before, it has become a foremost prerogative for architects to investigate the spatial potential and organizational structures which exist in all hospitals. Both the imperative and constituencies for innovative healthcare solutions in buildings.

This project takes this task to hand by contemplating a new kind of hospital, to be constructed on atop the ruined pylons of Pier 54 in the neighborhood of Chelsea, Manhattan, directly adjacent to both the New Whitney Museum and the High Line.

Rather than treating the 60m by 30m by 30m alloted space as an abstract concept devoid of site, this proposal verticalizes these dimensions into a mostly modular design situated atop tracks along a revitalized pier infrastructure. Moving back and forth across the elevated platform, the project questions new methods at once of participating in the creation of a public sphere as well as in engaging spaces of healing.


While current models for hospital organization clearly delineate inpatients from outpatients (see left), they often do little in terms of addressing specific conditions for individual kinds of treatments.

This flattens the treatment of various patients who arrive for a myriad of ailments into one plane of standardized treatment. As a result of this methodology, interdepartmental redundancies occur in which hospitals gather rather inefficient organizations around things like surgeries, thus risking patients’ stays.

For example, a precursory assessment of the departmental organization of Shanghai East Hospital reveals numerous overlaps (annotated on right by authors). This produces even a basic organizational structure, but it still misses key opportunities to reduce care inefficiency. Worse examples, such as Seattle Children's Hospital (seen below through its departmental smörgåsbord) shoot even further from the mark. These redundancies reduce efficiency and potentially hinder interdisciplinary advantages to centralizing certain functions of hospitals, such as surgery centers or sample-testing facilities.

Traditional methods of hospital design can be roughly summarized as emphasizing the division between departments and specialties over the well-being of patients and their needs throughout recovery.

This proposal seeks to realign the hospital with its primary constituency by crafting a primacy in design for the specific healthcare prerogatives of the patient.

A New Model for Hospital Organization

Studying data taken from the European Union’s government (see right) about member states’ hospitals and their patients’ demands, we have concluded that a clear set of criteria exists for the creation of a hospital organization that centers around addressing the specific reasons for which people come seeking treatment.

Primarily, this concerns the lengths of patients‘ stays. Whether an outpatient staying for an afternoon or a patient coming for several weeks for cancer treatment, every patient at a hospital can be categorized along a continuum of the amount of time they require the hospital’s facilities.

It is thus deduced that the hospital be composed of three towers for stays of short, medium and long durations.


Designed around three towers housing patients in various lengths of stays, a natural design connection emerges between the duration of clinical care and a cyclical understanding of the hospital process.

The motion of the buildings around the tracks initiates a feedback loop within the design process, allowing a constant refinement between the building’s paths, their positions relative to one another as well as to the urban setting. This process was rigorously tested to avoid collisions, as demonstrated through an animation (seen below).

By incorporating motion and duration into the design of the hospital itself, each patient will feel their recovery manifest architecturally. Towers tread across the tracks on crane-like platforms, informed by the capabilities and geometries of “Super-Post-Panamax” classification heavy gantry cranes for ports. As patients arrive, they will be taken along the platform to whichever tower’s duration most appropriately fits their needs, as determined tracking statistics around those ailments (see below).

Formal Processes

Pier 54 itself is a rather famous yet neglected landmark in New York City. The forlorned and ill-fated dock of Titanic in 1912, it has since its heyday dilapidated greatly. The hospital project takes its first formal move by duplicating and extending the truncated block from the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan adjacent to which the pier sits, extending it out by its full conceptual length into the water.

Above this, the tracks for the three towers shift subtly across its surface, catching local alignments to the shoreline and to the city’s grid along their paths. This creates a formal sense of belonging in that the architectural work relates by way of its constructive geometry to its immediate site.

Though not immediately apparent, these nascent tangencies work alongside the constantly shifting vantages of the towers to assure an innumerable set of views for patients. For those back in the traditional ground of the city, the choreographed ballet of the three towers and their two detachable cores allows an interpretation to emerge of an energetic skyline, a literalization of the hectic nature of Manhattan’s streets projected upwards.

Rather than reconceptualizing an entirely new form for architecture, this project reorganizes (and in so doing estranges) recognizable parts of an extremely typical construction type so that both those within and outside might see anew their conceptions of a what architecture can mean.