HKS architects were tasked with creating a much-needed medical office building (MOB) to ease the burden on the MLK Jr. Community Hospital, an iconic health facility in the Willowbrook neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The hospital opened in 1972 — seven years after the infamous Watts Riots — shut down in 2007 then reopened in 2015. Because of its location in what is considered a medical desert, HKS was challenged to design an outpatient clinic and surgery center that integrates healing with nature and provides an uplifting, dignified and accessible health services option for a historically underserved and diverse Los Angeles community.
The Design Solution
The MOB is the first of several planned medical facilities in the area that will support the MLK Jr. Community Health system. The design is intended to provide a welcoming sense of place and belonging. One of the design drivers is to eliminate the typical hierarchy between patients and clinical care providers, starting with the first touchpoint at the lobby, featuring big windows that allow plenty of light, which helps facilitate healing. The overall facility is filled with warm wood tones in the reception desks and ceilings, natural materials such as the concrete look flooring and a healing color palette consistent with the MLK brand in the interior environment. The color scheme, signage and finish materiality deployed in the clinic has dual purposes: 1) wayfinding to help reduce patient and visitors’ stress and 2) providing identity and organization for the clinic staff who are efficiently grouped per pod in an on-stage/off-stage configuration. The overall goal is to give visitors the sense that they are welcome at any time, not just when they are sick, and that while there, they will be respected and receive high-quality care, an important measure for the nearby South LA residents whose health care needs have long been overlooked.
The team’s desire to expedite construction informed the decision to use decorative site-cast concrete tilt-up panels for the building envelope, which improved construction time and created a durable, intentionally irregular façade. The standardized panels still created an asymmetrical rhythm on the overall façade from placing varying widths of pilasters and creating texture with the use of fluted formliners. Exterior design elements are drawn into the interiors for an integrated parti.
This 50,000 square-foot, two-story MOB offers several, important services to the community. Currently, the first floor contains a primary care clinic with exam and procedure rooms, dental, behavioral health and provider offices. The second floor includes an outpatient ambulatory surgery center with four operating rooms, Pre-Op/PACU and an in-house sterile processing department to support the surgery suite. Additional services include a wound care suite and a telehealth program, offering on-going virtual follow-up support for patients. The remainder of the two floors consists of unfinished shell space that the hospital intends to outfit with vital services that may include dialysis, infusion, imaging, and pharmacy.
One of the design drivers of this project was the ability to support and encourage community health education and wellness. The building provides a multi-purpose room for hosted MLK Community Health seminars such as high-blood pressure, diabetes, healthy food awareness and classes for young mothers.
The Design Impact
The MLK Community Health Medical Office Building solidifies the historical connection of its parent Martin Luther King Jr., Community Hospital within the community and provides an essential health care oasis in the midst of a medical desert for the area’s approximately 1 million residents. The impact of this facility reduces the low-acuity patient load to the main hospital, ultimately providing the surrounding area with unprecedented access to health and well-being equity and empowerment.
Another lasting impact of this project is the economic contribution to the surrounding area for local healthcare providers employment as well as during construction, the project used about 45 percent of local tier hiring, keeping 200 construction jobs within Los Angeles.
- 50,000 square feet (4,645 square meters)
- 2 Stories
- 250 parking spaces
- 6 EVSE charging stations
- 97 percent of construction waste diverted through six waste streams
- 78 percent reduction of outdoor water use
- 27 percent reduction of indoor water use
- 5 percent energy cost savings on core and shell
- Zero CFC-based refrigerants used within the project
- Conveniently located at the site of local bus stop and major intersection
- Smoke-free campus
- LEED Silver certification for Core & Shell
The building design is classy, clean, warm and captures the spirit of MLK...[HKS] made sure that we received a beautifully designed, durable, and efficient building…I thank you for your teamwork and for helping us achieve our goals.”
Senior VP, Trammel Crow Company