Josef Hoffmann’s Pruckersdorf Sanatorium of 1904 was a functional and aesthetic masterpiece that might have set a precedent for hospitals in Austria—but didn’t. Throughout the 20th century, Austrian hospitals fared perfectly well without architects’ architects. Today, the country not only has the most hospitals per capita in the European Union, it also boasts the highest international ratings, along with France, in health-care quality. Recently, however, the climate for public hospital construction has shifted. State facilities are now competing for patients who have opted for new, private supplementary insurance, and simultaneously, the national hospital service hired a slew of project managers tasked with keeping construction strictly on budget. The grand new public building at Provincial Hospital Graz-West, designed by Domenig/Eisenköck/ Gruber, should convince both patients and administrators that the public system in Austria is entirely capable of delivering top-notch hospitals cost-effectively.
As part of an effort to provide smaller, decentralized health-care facilities throughout the region, the program called for outsourcing short-stay, basic-care services—such as emergency surgery, physiotherapy, radiology, internal medicine, same-day surgery, and lung disease treatment—away from the larger University Hospital in Graz, located in the eastern part of the city. The new building’s site in Graz’s western outskirts consists of wheat and corn fields, with a few rustic buildings in the distance and hills as a backdrop, all set against a vista of open skies.
The three-story, 260-bed hospital smacks of luxury. Approaching it, a visitor can’t help thinking it’s not a hospital, but rather a home-furnishings shopper’s paradise, recalling Ben Thompson’s famed Design Research Building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Nighttime heightens this impression, thanks to the brilliant (literally and figuratively) use of artificial lighting, both inside and out. The facades of buffed, meshed, and ribbed stainless steel, as well as concrete structural elements and finishing, are impeccably crafted and detailed, giving an impression of state-of-the-art technology within.
DI Franz Kalwoda, Vienna
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