Posts Tagged ‘George Wolff’

No Getting Round it: An Innovative Approach to Building Design

posted on June 23, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

What is it about circular architecture in Henry J. Kaiser’s facilities?

We know that Henry J. Kaiser was a geodesic dome pioneer. Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation built two of the first civilian domes in 1957, one in Virginia and one in Hawaii. There’s another plan from the same year (never built) for a “Medical office building for the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome.

The Permanente Foundation hospital at Panorama City (1962-2008) featured seven double circular floors, an example of Dr. Sidney Garfield’s “circles of service” concept. Dr. Garfield explained that in a 1974 interview:

In the center was a work space for the personnel, the supervisor right in the middle, with the public or patients coming in from an outside corridor – the peripheral corridor, central workspace concept. This would permit us to keep the central area clean, as the contaminated areas go out the outside corridors so you don’t get any cross traffic. It kept the orderlies and all the people who moved stretchers out of the central work space and so forth and the supervisor is right there so she can see everything.

Kaiser Child Service Center at Swan Island, circa 1943.

Yet there’s one more – the Portland Child Service Centers built in 1943 for the workers at the Oregonship and Swan Island shipyards. The center at Oregonship opened for children on November 8, 1943, Swan Island Center soon afterwards on November 18.

These structures represented an innovative approach to building that carries over to present at the Kaiser Permanente, although the organization is no longer builds round things – or does it?

Current hospital and building designs focus on environmental stewardship and patient safety, with a healthy dose of aesthetic brilliance thrown in. A news article on how design and healing go hand in hand called out the award-winning 2016 Kaiser Permanente, Kraemer Radiation Oncology Center in Anaheim, Calif., as featuring “fritted glass that evokes a forest and provides both light and privacy.” And it’s round, or at least rounded.

Frank Stewart, Administrator; George Wolff, Architect, Dr. Wallace Neighbor (pointing); Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital, circa 1942.

The 1943 Portland buildings were designed by the Portland, Ore., architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips (George M. Wolff and Truman E. Phillips), creators of several important Kaiser and Permanente facilities.

George Wolff (1899-1978) was a personal friend of Henry Kaiser’s son Edgar, and through that connection drew the firm into designing the worker’s housing at Bonneville Dam in Washington in 1934. In they created the 1942 Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital to serve the workers in Kaiser’s three northwest shipyards, as well as the wartime city of Vanport of almost 40,000 people.

After the war, the firm designed the conversion of Ford’s Willow Run plant in Michigan when Henry Kaiser took it over to produce automobiles, and later they designed the 1953 state-of-the art Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Los Angeles.

Playground core, Oregon child service center.

Unlike the more conventional design of the Maritime Child Development Center in Richmond, Calif., the Oregon centers put classrooms in a circle around six separate playgrounds.

We hear about this idea in a March 1944 article “Designed for 24-Hour Child Care” in Architectural Record, where Wolff and Phillips credited the facility design to the “ring school” concept originally conceived of by modernist architect Richard Joseph Neutra.

Neutra (1892 –1970) was an Austrian-American architect who spent most of his career in Southern California. Like Wolff and Phillips, his style was “modernist” with plentiful natural light and open space, and during the mid-1920s was evolving a radial site layout for public facilities.

Richard Neutra’s Ring Plan School project model, circa 1926.

A March 2000 article in UCLA Today explains more about Neutra’s role in this design concept:

Perhaps the most striking examples of this belief were the various schools designed by Neutra in Los Angeles. His project for a Ring Plan School, with its ring of classrooms around a play area and a running track on the roof, was adopted in 1934 by the Los Angeles School Board and built in the Bell district. The building was much celebrated for its qualities of light, relationship of classrooms to outdoors and color of materials.

One of his ring plan schools was built in 1960 at Lemoore Naval Air Station near Fresno; it’s now the Neutra Elementary School.

The design of the Portland Child Service Center was innovative, effective, and exemplary. A 2009 historic building assessment of the Portland public schools noted:

The building’s form and details rejected the architectural conventions that characterized the previous era of school construction. The Portland Child Service Center (demolished) captures the ideals that would be explored in Portland’s public schools in the post-war period.

Rejecting conventions and capturing ideals – that would be a good characterization of Henry J. Kaiser’s approach to solving national problems.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2t4sIH8

 

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Modern hospital groundbreaking brings out Los Angeles heavy hitters

posted on December 14, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

"Cement-pouring ceremonies Wednesday, November 7, at the Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. site in Los Angeles were participated in by (left to right) realtor Lawrence Block; Permanente Health Plan Manager Brian M, Kelly; Retail Clerks Union Local 770, President Lee Barbone; Local 770 Benefit Fund Administrator."

“Cement-pouring ceremonies Wednesday, November 7, at the Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. site in Los Angeles were participated in by (left to right) realtor Lawrence Block; Permanente Health Plan Manager Brian M, Kelly; Retail Clerks Union Local 770, President Lee Barbone; Local 770 Benefit Fund Administrator.”

It wasn’t a movie premiere, but a modern, gleaming building with the latest in medical capabilities that brought out the who’s who of Los Angeles – real estate developers, hospital administrators, labor leaders, and politicians – in late 1951.

When the new Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard opened its doors on June 17, 1953, it was national news. It had numerous modern features, and was a milestone in the health plan’s expansion in Southern California. Years before he became a famous TV news anchor, Chet Huntley’s radio broadcast about the opening gushed “The use of labor-saving devices, the use of light (both natural and artificial), the furnishings, the gadgets, the décor, and the personnel are all combined to make the new Kaiser Foundation Hospital something special.”

"Another construction view of the $2,500.000 Permanente Foundation Hospital reveals the wide are to be covered on Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. by the seven-story, 210-bed hospital, which will have complete surgical, obstetrical, laboratory, x-ray, pharmaceutical, and emergency facilities to serve the people of Los Angeles."

“Another construction view of the $2,500.000 Permanente Foundation Hospital reveals the wide area to be covered on Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. by the seven-story, 210-bed hospital, which will have complete surgical, obstetrical, laboratory, x-ray, pharmaceutical, and emergency facilities to serve the people of Los Angeles.”

A recently processed trove of photographs of the hospital’s 1951 groundbreaking, with extended captions and a press release, shows us more about the political and urban environmental climate of Los Angeles at that time.

The corner of Sunset Boulevard and Edgemont Street certainly looks different now. Back then, it was surrounded by small two-story buildings and adjacent to the forested Barnsdall Park on Olive Hill. The Park was the former estate of Aline Barnsdall, who donated it to the city of Los Angeles and hired noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1917 to design an extensive complex of structures. It was never completed, but the site still exists as a cultural and arts center.

The commitment to building a new hospital was a major event that included the participation of Los Angeles heavy hitters – real estate developers, hospital administrators, labor leaders, and politicians.

"Designed by the Portland architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips, and now under construction by general contractor C.L. Peck of Los Angeles, the Permanente Foundation Hospital at Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. in Los Angeles is a non-profit, charitable trust of the Henry J. Kaiser family. The 210-bed hospital is being built to help alleviate the critical need for hospital beds and service in the Los Angeles area."

“Designed by the Portland architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips, and now under construction by general contractor C.L. Peck of Los Angeles, the Permanente Foundation Hospital at Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. in Los Angeles is a non-profit, charitable trust of the Henry J. Kaiser family. The 210-bed hospital is being built to help alleviate the critical need for hospital beds and service in the Los Angeles area.”

The press release accompanying captioned photos of the ceremonial groundbreaking November 7, 1951, told us the key facts:

City officials and heads of other hospitals in Los Angeles extended their welcome to the Permanente Foundation’s new $2,500,000 hospital at ground-breaking ceremonies Wednesday afternoon, November 7, on the northeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and Edgemont Street.

Adjacent to Barnsdall Park, historic landmark of the city, the new hospital will consist of a seven-story building with 210 beds and complete surgical, obstetrical, laboratory, x-ray, pharmaceutical and emergency facilities.

The hospital, which is being built by the Foundation to help alleviate the critical need for additional hospital beds and service in the Los Angeles area, was welcomed at the ceremonies by City Councilman Ernest Debs, Methodist Hospital Administrator Walter Hoefflin, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital Administrator Paul C. Elliot, and Cedars of Lebanon Hospital Administrator Emanuel Weisberger.

Others participating in the ceremonies were realtor Lawrence Block, who negotiated the Foundation purchase of the hospital property; Permanente Foundation Controller Paul J. Steil, and Brian M. Kelly, Permanente Health Plan Manager.

barnsdall-park-map

Map of hospital site, circa 1955.

Representing employment groups, whose participating membership in the Permanente Health Plan now totals approximately 50,000, were Joseph T. DeSilva, secretary, and Lee Barbone, president, Retail Clerks Union, Local 770, Los Angeles; A. A. Carpenter, United Steel Workers of America, Local 1845, Maywood, and W. L. Emblen, Permanente Health Plan Representative at Kaiser Steel in Fontana.

Employers’ representatives attending the ground-breaking included O. G. Lawton, president of the Food Employers’ Council.

The Permanente Foundation Hospital, designed by the Portland architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips, is slated for completion by Fall of 1952. C. L. Peck of Los Angeles is the general contractor.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2hxpinC

 

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60 years ago: Kaiser Permanente’s first LA medical center opens

posted on June 21, 2013

KP Sunset Hospital in Los Angeles, built in 1953, was one of Dr. Garfield’s “dream” hospitals.

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

Garfield’s design of ‘dream hospital’ features unconventional and efficient layout

1953 was a big year for expansion in Kaiser Permanente. The fledgling Health plan opened state-of-the-art hospitals in three communities – Los Angeles and Fontana in Southern California and Walnut Creek in Northern California.

The Los Angeles Medical Center (on Sunset Boulevard) was the first to open, on June 16, 1953. The dream hospital design was inspired by Kaiser Permanente founding physician Sidney Garfield who worked with architect of record George M. Wolff.

The new hospitals debuted the concept of separate corridors for visitors and staff. Visitors could enter a patient room from an outside walkway, staying out of the way of busy medical staff moving along the interior corridor.

Garfield’s design called for decentralized nursing stations with one for every four rooms (one nurse per eight patients) instead of one per floor. Patient rooms had an individual lavatory with hot, cold, and iced water.

The futuristic concept of the “baby in a drawer” – a sliding bassinet that let a tired mom pass her newborn through for care in the nursery – was also introduced in the 1953 dream hospitals.

LA Times touted new medical center

The Los Angeles Times gushed about the $3 million facility, describing it as “sorely needed.” It also noted: “The Kaiser Hospital, operated by the non-profit Foundation, is open to the public, a fact not generally known. In addition to Health Plan patients, it also accepts private patients and charity patients referred by social welfare agencies.”

But that public aspect did not sit well with the Southern California medical establishment whose members resisted the arrival of prepaid, group practice medicine. The next month the Los Angeles County Medical Association sent out a questionnaire to its members with the header caption “This is the most important notice ever sent to you by the LACMA.”

Medical association resisted group practice

The cover page made clear the medical association’s concerns:

“Points have been raised as to whether this (Kaiser Permanente) is really a corporation practicing medicine, whether the ‘captive’ patients of the plan forced to join by their union is good for the welfare of the people, whether the patients receive adequate medical care, whether it is proper for a layman to control physicians, etc.”

Opposition reached a fever pitch in August 1953 when Paul Foster, MD, president of the medical association, condemned the Kaiser Permanente program as “unethical.”

These were difficult times for the fledgling Permanente group. The successful practice of high-quality medicine in gleaming new facilities like Sunset eventually wore down the opposition.  By 1960, the local medical society attacks on the program had come to an end.

 

 

 

 

 

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