In response to another platitude-laden letter by the Downtown Development District's Kurt Weigle about how moving the medical district out of downtown will somehow help downtown, Dr. George C. Skarmeas, the Principle Director of Preservation Architecture for RMJM penned a brilliant explanation of how the RMJM design can turn Charity Hospital into a world-class medical facility and reinvigorate the city's moribund downtown medical district.
Re: "New med center will be a boon for downtown, " Your Opinions, Sept. 16. Contrary to comments by Downtown Development District CEO Kurt Weigle, our in-depth review has demonstrated that Charity can be re-used to house a modern medical complex. With careful planning and design, it could be a state-of-the-art hospital at a lower cost, and with direct economic impact sooner than any other alternative.
The Foundation for Historical Louisiana selected international architects RMJM in 2008 to evaluate whether Charity could be reused as a contemporary hospital, meeting the most current thinking and standards in health-care planning and design.
The RMJM design team, which has considerable experience worldwide in historic preservation and health-care design, conducted an extensive assessment of the existing building conditions.
Charity's design features elegant towers and a wide-floor-plan base. These floor plans conform to modern health care facility standards, providing a base to accommodate complex medical and surgical functions, which support the floors above.
The existing floor-to-floor height is ideal for operating rooms and diagnostic facilities and all elements comprising a modern facility. The building footprint also complies with sustainable design goals of adding daylight and views from all patient rooms.
The RMJM study resulted in a clear and compelling vision for the re-use of Charity, integrating the most stringent contemporary health-care design principles with sound preservation techniques and sustainable technology.
A renovated Charity will provide an optimal, patient-centered, hospital experience and reinforce existing teaching relationships and clinical partnerships.
Revitalizing Charity will be an important step in the city's redevelopment, reinforcing the value of sustainability -- not demolition and social displacement -- as a key component of future architectural development.
Dr. George C. Skarmeas
For reasons that remain unknown, the Downtown Development District's Kurt Weigle has been a constant booster for a project that will create a suburban style hospital that isn't just located outside of downtown but is physically oriented away from it. Look at the designs here.
At the unveiling of the designs by state architects back on August 18th, Weigle who, again, purports to be a representative of the interests of downtown businesses, essentially argued that it didn't matter what the new hospital looked like.
The suburban style design of the proposed LSU medical center received a barrage of negative comments, not just by individuals and groups long opposed to demolishing Lower Mid-City instead of rebuilding inside the facade of historic Charity Hospital. Critics included a representative of the City Planning Commission and even Caitlin Cain of the Regional Planning Commission, a longtime proponent of the LSU/VA project – and Mr. Weigle's spouse.
Weigle dismissed any and all of these concerns, saying:
"Frankly, regardless of what physical form it takes, we think that we can greatly enhance the impact on downtown by creating a stronger pedestrian and transit connection to downtown. There's no question about that. I say that without qualification."
Yeesh. At least Mr. Weigle concedes that the proposed LSU/VA medical complex won't be downtown nor connected to it.