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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | View Map
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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as Architects

Conceived as three hospitals under one roof, the new Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) is a 300,000-square meter, 838-bed medical complex that will combine a General Hospital (with a Level One Trauma Center), and tertiary Women’s and Pediatric Hospitals. The new SKMC is designed for SEHA, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company and will be the largest hospital in the UAE. Envisioned as a “city within a city,” the design defies the typical model of a medical center and creates a bustling campus-like environment of distinct character, vibrant public spaces, healing gardens, and a sense of community.

Ideally located at the city’s center, the new facility will rise on the existing 36 hectare SKMC campus. With zoning guidelines and phasing requirements dictating a modest height building located at the interior of the superblock, the building’s prominence is ensured by a strategy that restrains the height of future, perimeter development and provides gracious entry boulevards to connect the main city streets to the campus center. These boulevards lead to a perimeter garden and entry courts with grand stairs that rise to a shaded rooftop oasis and a series of courtyards. The diverse network of open spaces will mitigate the sense of distance, assist in way-finding and establish a tranquil atmosphere within a campus-like environment.

The facility’s two-story base will house an intense array of medical functions shared among the three hospitals, from outpatient clinics to the emergency department, radiology and operating theaters. Embedded in this base at the heart of the medical city, a vibrant two-story “town center” of lobbies, cafes, retail, prayer rooms and education spaces provides important amenities for patients, visitors and staff and acts as a marketplace of ideas and services. This lively place of exchange fosters a sense of community and serves as a welcome respite from the more medically intense areas of the medical city. The Commons, a shaded rooftop garden above this town center, will offer a generous outdoor space for relaxation and quiet contemplation. The innovative use of the roof of the diagnostic and treatment base activates 2.3 hectares of central open space for public use.

The design team developed “unifying” and “differentiating” components to balance the client’s desire to create distinct identities for each of the three hospitals while maintaining an overall unified expression. The medical city’s heavy stone base, inspired by ancient architecture of the region, serves as a common pedestrian-scaled expression within which medical functions will be found among light-filled courtyards. Above the plinth, characteristic façade treatments on each bed tower identify each distinct hospital function and address the specific needs of each patient population. A separate Royals Pavilion is also provided.

The interior design of the medical city is based on the idea that “patients are guests.” Lobbies and other public spaces will convey a sense of serenity through spaciousness, natural materials and diffused natural light, while courtyards and terraces will serve to blur the boundaries of inside and out. Like the exterior architecture, which expresses distinct identities developed from a common language, the interiors will likewise be unified yet uniquely branded, with custom textiles and wallcoverings that reinforce and enhance the mood of each hospital.

SKMC will be the first hospital in the UAE to achieve an Estidama rating of 2 Pearls, the equivalent of LEED Gold certification. It will utilize state-ofart, high-efficiency, next generation building systems alongside basic, regional concepts to harness, amplify and support the natural environment and mitigate the harsh desert climate of Abu Dhabi.

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