Case Study

Piedmont Atlanta Hospital Marcus Tower A Medical Tower that Embraces Southern Hospitality

Atlanta, Georgia

The Challenge

The location of the hospital tower called for a design that would suit three distinct urban environments: the existing hospital campus, a historic residential neighborhood and the commercial district on Atlanta’s main corridor, Peachtree Road. That meant the design had to be modern and recognizable, yet deferential of the hospital and surrounding homes in both scale and materials. Designers were also tasked with helping the hospital prepare for future growth while creating an environment that met the zoning standards of Atlanta’s Beltline Overlay District, which promote economic growth and walkability along a former railway corridor.

The Design Solution

HKS designed a curved façade that creates a public plaza on the side facing the commercial area. This space and the tower’s sleek curtain wall connect the hospital to its vibrant neighborhood, transforming what could have been a bland street corner into the hospital’s front porch – a pedestrian destination that can host a variety of community activities. The tower transitions to a more solid and private space as people move toward the hospital campus and residential areas on the other side. This effect is achieved with the use of terracotta on the western façade, which blends with the architecture of the hospital campus and the historical brick exteriors in the residential neighborhood. The interior design channels Southern hospitality, with a bright, double-height lobby whose wood soffit ceiling evokes warmth and protection. The interiors incorporate artwork showcasing the beloved oak and magnolia trees that used to be on the site, as well as furniture pieces such as reception desks made from wood salvaged from those trees.

HKS worked with Piedmont to prepare the hospital for future demand by designing a 16-story tower with patient floors that could be built out in phases. The design also included shell space for additional operating rooms and recovery areas. To help hospital decision-makers and staff visualize key spaces, HKS created renderings that hospital staff could explore with virtual reality goggles. Designers also worked with contractors to create full-size mockups of some of the rooms. In addition, HKS reached out to patients, their relatives, residents and businesses neighboring the hospital, and many others to get their input as designers planned the tower.

With an aggressive schedule to open the tower by August 2020, HKS collaborated with contractor Brasfield & Gorrie and more than 30 other firms to get real-time feedback on design and pricing. The project team – designers, contractors, engineers and hospital executives – used cutting-edge software to communicate changes to the design and track them virtually.

This cooperative, fast-moving approach allowed HKS, the contractor and their partners to save $16.3 million that were poured back into the project to fund additional features benefiting the public and hospital staff. These included an auditorium for lectures, a space on the ground floor for meditation or prayer, and retail space for a restaurant and coffee shop fronting the commercial district and open to the neighborhood.

The Design Impact

The streamlined production process helped Piedmont Marcus Tower open nearly four months early, making more intensive care units available in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tower’s early opening adds 132 beds to the Atlanta region, with 64 designated as ICU beds. When the facility is completed, it’ll feature up to 408 beds. The tower is home to the Piedmont Heart Institute, the new Marcus Heart and Vascular Center and the Samsky Invasive Cardiovascular Services Center.

The operating room shell space that HKS designed into the Marcus Tower has prepared Piedmont to respond to a potential increase in demand for surgeries. The hospital expects an influx of surgery patients once government authorities relax COVID-19 restrictions that forced the postponement of certain medical procedures.

Project Features

  • 905,000-square-foot tower (84,077 square meters)
  • 16 stories with space for up to 408 beds
  • 16 operating rooms
  • 8 cardiac catheterization labs
  • 4 cardiac electrophysiology labs
  • Urban plaza
  • Auditorium
  • 300-car parking garage


  • 2023 Vista Award, New Construction, ASHE (American Society for Healthcare Engineering)
  • 2022 CHCC Hospital Construction Awards, Excellence in International Healthcare Architecture
  • 2021 Healthcare Environment Awards, Honorable Mention, Acute Care Category
  • 2021 Finalist, Hospitals + Clinics, World Interior News (WIN) Awards
  • 2020 Healthcare Design Award, Hospitals – Community, IDDA
  • 2018 People’s Choice Award, Unbuilt, AIA Georgia Chapter
  • 2018 Third Place, Autodesk’s AEC Excellence Award
  • 2016 Best in Real Estate, Atlanta Business Chronicle