The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute

The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute’s (GHEI) mission is to develop innovative technologies, clinical solutions, and educational programs that enhance the visual health of people in Orange County and across the world. To support this effort as designers, the architectural solution was to create a user-focused building that responded to the program, site, and campus. The intent was to create an easy-to-navigate building — to do so the design team partnered with the Braille Institute to reduce travel paths, increase accessibility, and select furnishings and fixtures that minimized ambient noise and maximized color contrast. The glass-clad, 70,000-sf facility integrates ambulatory surgery space, clinical patient rooms, and an optical shop to provide a one-stop solution for patients to fulfill their eye care needs.

Responding to Patient & Staff Needs
To improve user experience and wayfinding, the building’s design responds to patient and staff needs with a square shape and strategically-located departments. The relatively square shape improves staff and patient flow by reducing travel distances between departments while enhancing connectivity between patient areas. On the Surgery level designers chose to create a combined Pre-Op/Recovery Room — with a central nurse station — that allows for optimum care of patients and efficient use of staff resources. Establishing direct adjacencies, the floorplan minimizes the travel distance between the Pre-Op/Recovery Room and the operating rooms. Establishing direct adjacencies for each department reduced the overall turn-around-time and length of stay for patients. The unified facility provides more efficient operations and doubles the patient capacity of the Institute.

Leveraging the site slope to split the building form, the designers strategically programmed the surgery department on the lower level. This created an opportunity for a dedicated entrance to the Surgery Center for improved patient accessibility. Patient’s scheduled for surgery can directly enter the center’s waiting room without having to bypass the clinical spaces. A covered drop-off and pick-up area allows patients to remain sheltered from the elements at all times. This separate dedicated entrance improves both wayfinding and patient experience.

Establishing an Architectural Language
As the first building in the health sciences quad, the building provides character definition while establishing an architectural language. To connect the building to the site, the building uses a long curved western facade to make a strong gesture towards the future buildings. The transparent, main entry links the building to the quad and establishes a notable entrance — maximizing visibility and wayfinding. With the three-story atrium, visitors have a sense of arrival when they approach the building. Inside, patients are immediately connected to the clinical spaces. The ease of wayfinding reduces patient anxiety and expedites the entire visit. A hanging dichroic glass sculpture in the atrium creates colorful, changing reflections that playfully expresses the building’s optical nature outwardly and internally.

Responding to the Campus
Responding to the campus, the building balances the University’s architectural language with a light, minimalistic composition to anchor the building to the health sciences quad. Coupling the University’s tripartite classical architecture style with a blend of new and existing materials, the building connects to the larger campus and establishes an identity for the new quad. The first level is defined by a series of vertical window shapes and stone column base to give the building mass a strong visual foundation. Floors two and three use transparent high performance glazing and metal accent elements to suggest internal functions. The strong upper horizontal band at the third floor coupled with a top spandrel row and concrete slab edge gives a suggested cap to the airy building.

“The quality of the new facility far exceeded expectations with increased staff productivity and patient satisfaction,” said Dr. Roger Steinert, Director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute.