Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland
Walter Reed National
Military Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

Walter Reed is more than a military medical center. It is an epicenter, showing the country’s collective commitment to those who serve and sacrifice for the benefit of all. It must be as efficient and choreographed as it is comforting and supportive.

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt may not have been an architect by trade, but he did sketch the original design of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The drawing was passed along to French architect Paul Phillipe Cret, who designed the facility. Today, HKS designers are continuing his art deco style with the addition of two buildings – one to the left and the other to the right of the historic tower. A collaboration of HKS, the National Capital Planning Commission, the Maryland State Historical Preservation Office and Hartman-Cox Architects, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center complements the historic landmark on one of the nation’s premier war-casualty reception sites.

The Vision

The functional goal of the project was to integrate the Army, Navy and Air Force services into a central medical center of excellence. The primary elements of design that provide integration with the site context was the look of the Building A and Building B exteriors. The approach was to incorporate views on all sides of the new buildings that draw from the rhythm of fenestration and materials used on the western faces of the existing buildings in the historical view corridor. The parking garages differ in view and prominence to the additions of Buildings A and B. The garages, located away from the historical views, nestle into the secondary views of the campus. All exterior materials relate to the materials on the adjacent existing structure, so that the new structures blend well within the Medical Campus exterior architecture plan.

The Design

The buildings support the iconic identity of the Bethesda Medical Center Tower, which was originally designed by Paul Cret in the late 1930s. The new Buildings A and B feature a modernistic revival true to the original architecture and are a continuation of the existing four-story medical center and signature 20-story tower. Evidence-based design is incorporated into the medical center plan and includes material selections based on durability/longevity, adjacencies for staff walking distances and nursing and charting stations within those walking distances. All patient rooms are single-occupancy, promoting patient control, family-centered care and infection control. Natural daylighting is incorporated into many of the patient rooms as well as the corridors and waiting areas. Interior courtyards provide areas of respite for patients, families and staff. Family waiting areas are adjacent to the interior courtyards. Every critical care patient room features a lift, which carries the patient from the bed to the toilet room – assisting patient mobility and reducing staff injuries.