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Architect: Tower has ‘healing power’
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Architect: Tower has ‘healing power’

New hospital wing designed to ‘bring everyone together’

When the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower opened in March 2012, it brought a state-of-the-art medical facility to Jerusalem.

In an age of environmental awareness, the 19-story facility at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Ein Kerem set a standard for “green hospitals.” Its four “healing gardens” and atrium with live trees and flowing water provide psychological and physical benefits to patients. Five of the structure’s floors, including operating suites, are built underground allowing them to function during a terrorist or military attack.

Just as important, it is a microcosm of what peace in the Middle East could be as both Arabs and Jews come together — it is estimated that 30-35 percent of patients are Arabs — to give and receive top-rated healthcare.

All of that happened, said the tower’s lead architect, Arthur Spector, because “the most courageous decision I have seen” was made when the leadership of Hadassah determined to carry out the massive, $363 million project.

The Jerusalem-based Spector spoke at Raritan Valley Hadassah’s first tower fund-raising event, held July 21 at the Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emet.

Hadassah national president Marcie Natan was present; addressing the 100 members gathered for the event, she said, “It is your dedication that makes this organization so unique and special.”

As of July 24, Raritan Valley Hadassah had received pledges totaling about $9,000, with more expected, exceeding the event’s goal of $6,000, said event chair Ellen Lacy.

Spector, originally from the Boston area, explained the challenges of creating a modern and practical facility whose design would blend in with the historic skyline of Jerusalem, itself a hodge-podge of architectural styles reflecting the many peoples and nations that have governed the city through the centuries.

“Jerusalem is a historic city, and when you work in a historic city you have to take into account the context,” said Spector. His firm, Spector Amisar Architects, has designed medical facilities throughout the world, always keeping in mind, he said, that each should reflect the conditions and culture of the location in which it operates.

In the tower, that meant including design features that control the sun glare in a structure with glass walls in a country with some of the highest sun glare in the world, said Spector.

Among the other sustainable “green” features incorporated in the building is a cutting-edge system that significantly reduces energy consumption, including solar energy installations, a surfeit of natural light and ventilation, rooftop centrifugal chillers to cut power usage, a system that uses residual heat to conserve energy, and a computerized lighting system that responds to external elements. In addition, condensation from the steam system and grey waste water is recycled, and louvers over the roof angle with the sun to cut down on air-conditioning costs.

To construct a “smarter” building, said Spektor, a large team of expert planners and consultants was called in, including the American architectural company HKS Associates of Dallas.

Spector said studies have shown that the sensory impact of the entire hospital environment “works in a loop” with medical treatments to benefit patients. Their access to the healing gardens located on every floor provides “a connection to nature” as well as scenic views of the Judean Hills. Another therapeutic part of the hospital environment is the tower’s atrium; Spector showed pictures of the area, adorned with trees and plants and so spacious the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra plays several concerts there every year.

“As physical beings, the patients’ psyche and physiology are both under attack,” said Spector. “We as architects need to provide an environment that helps ease the pain and helps heal illness. We as architects can push that button that helps in the healing process.”

One third of the wing’s 500 rooms are private. Each semi-private room is equipped with two beds positioned at opposite corners and designed to allow complete privacy. Reclining couches near every bed allows loved ones to spend the night alongside patients.

State-of-the-art features, said Spector, include the tower’s operating rooms, among the most advanced in the world.

While Spector called designing the tower, “one of the most challenging projects of my professional life,” it was also one that brought him great personal satisfaction.

“I always thought if you could construct a building that was intelligently designed and well planned, it would be a place to bring everyone together — Jews, Arabs, and Christians,” he said. “The building itself would be so powerful people would come.”

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