3 universities collaborate on Chinese eye hospital project

Designs for an eye hospital in Puyang, China, created by students in a Texas A&M health facility design studio in collaboration with students at Southeast University in Nanjing, China and the University of Oklahoma, were unveiled in a public presentation Dec. 5 in the Langford Architecture Center’s Building A.

The two-phase project focused first on designing an outpatient and inpatient care center for the hospital, and then on providing additional inpatient rooms, administrative space and research labs.

Throughout the semester-long, international collaboration, Texas A&M students used video, teleconferencing, email and web blogs to communicate with their counterparts in China and Oklahoma. Their efforts were guided by three design firms that specialize in heathcare architecture: Beijing’s Institute of Project Planning and Research, one of China’s largest health facilities design and construction firms, HKS Inc. in Shanghai and Dallas, and Miles Associates in Oklahoma City.

The exercise, according to professor George J. Mann, director of the Texas A&M architecture-for-health studio, mirrored industry practices in which architects, constructors and clients collaborate electronically over long distances with people they never actually meet in person.

By collaborating with their Chinese counterparts, students gained access to site photos and received useful feedback on topics of regional concern such as Chinese medical practices and the use of ‘feng shui’ design principles,” Mann said.

In Chinese thought, feng shui is a system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy, or “qi.” The resulting favorable or unfavorable effects of feng shui are taken into account when siting and designing buildings.

The collaboration also benefited, Mann said, from a unique perspective brought by interior design students on the OU team. (Interior design is not a degree offering at Texas A&M.)

Because “many American design firms are doing more work in China than elsewhere in the world,” said Mann, the Skaggs-Sprague Endowed Chair in Health Facilities Design, the project offered students a preview of the work they’ll be doing if they join a large firm.

The studio exercise was enhanced by several other China-related events, including a weekly lecture series that brought healthcare design experts from China and the U.S., including Xi Qiu Huang, IPPR’s chief architect, to Texas A&M to discuss China’s rapidly changing healthcare needs.

In October, a delegation of project faculty from Texas A&M and OU traveled to Southeast University in Nanjing and IPPR in Beijing to lecture and present student work on the eye hospital project and to review the work of the Chinese architecture students.

Additionally, at a project review hosted Oct. 31 by the Dallas office of HKS, Texas A&M and OU students and faculty were joined by three students from Southeast University, their design professor, Ying Zhou, and representatives from Beijing’s Institute of Project Planning and Research. Their visit was sponsored by Craig Beale ‘71, FAIA, executive vice president and director of the HKS healthcare group in Dallas and Shanghai.

The entire project, assisted and advised by Texas A&M architecture faculty members Zhipeng Lu and Xuemei Zhu, involved more than 67 students, six faculty advisors from three universities, and numerous architectural professionals from IPPR, HKS and Miles Associates.

“This collaborative experience between universities and between architectural firms in different parts of the world will be a model for how architectural design studios are taught in the future,” said Mann. “Representatives from the universities and firms who collaborated on the project,” he said, “are already planning to undertake another collaborative architecture-for-health design project in China next fall.”

As a result of the relationships forged during the eye hospital collaboration, on Nov. 22 representatives from the College of Architecture’s Center for Health Systems & Design met at Texas A&M with a delegation from China. The meeting resulted in agreements for ongoing international collaboration in the areas of hospital safety, senior living environment design, and healthy and sustainable community planning. The Chinese delegation included directors of the China Beijing Natural Science Foundation, the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and the Beijing Association of Sustainable Development.

posted November 28, 2011