U.S. Building of the Week

Esperanza Wellness Campus

6. July 2020
Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point

Metal panels with prismatic paint cover the long sides of the new building for Esperanza Health Centers in Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood. The finish means the color changes with the sunlight, turning it into a dynamic building. Juan Moreno answered a few questions about the project.

Project: Esperanza Wellness Campus, 2019
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Client: Esperanza Health Centers
Architect: JGMA
  • Design Principal: Juan Moreno
  • Project Manager: Dan Spore
Structural Engineer: Forefront Structural  
MEP/FP Engineer: Syska Hennessy Group
Landscape Architect: Site Design Group
Lighting & Interior Designer: JGMA
Contractor: Skender Construction
Civil Engineer: Terra Engineering
Furniture: Urpright Interiors
Light Fixtures: Focal Point
Site Area: 70,800 sf
Building Area: 26,000 sf
Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point
Please provide an overview of the project.

Esperanza envisions a world where community residents are served regardless of immigration status, race/ethnicity, income or insurance, and are able to realize their full potential through optimum health. Therefore, this new facility materializes the client’s mission and vision. Understanding that health is a combination of physical, mental and spiritual balance, the new building focuses on creating spaces for healing and wholeness.

Esperanza resolves a significant challenge in the wellness typology. Too often these building types are disregarded in minority communities and result in facilities that lack resources and dignity. The result is a contemporary community health center providing critical services that this southwest area of Chicago has lacked.

Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point

The neighborhood was suffering a primary-health-care desert before Esperanza Wellness Campus was built. It is the building that this community needs to heal, flourish and feel supported. By teaming up with local specialty care and community-based organizations, the new facility houses comprehensive healthcare and utilizes forward-thinking design to attract and unite the surrounding community.

The new building stands as a beacon of hope and health to the Brighton Park community. It transforms a once blighted brownfield lot into a canvas of orange prismatic color-shifting panels, perforated by a pattern of rhomboid windows all above the continuous glazing ringing the ground floor entries. Inside, visitors find Mujeres Latinas En Accion (MLEA) services, a community pharmacy, a large multi-purpose room, cooking classes, and educational activities that promote health.

Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point
How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?

In 2015, EHC identified that many of their patients had been traveling an extensive distance in order to be see their doctors. They quickly determined that the neighborhoods of Brighton Park, Gage Park and Back Of The Yards were suffering as a primary-health-care desert. As such, Esperanza identified a site along 47th street and began the journey to transform the available health care within these communities. 

The building stands at the intersection of 47th Street and California Avenue. An unyielding concrete slab that stretched for an entire city block has been transformed into a new clinic with outdoor walking and community garden spaces that offer healing properties well before entering the building. The ground floor has been designed to draw visitors into the building, blurring interior and exterior. This flowing and open lobby plan, at the site's predominant corner, is the central and vibrant hub of the facility.  

Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point

The spray of windows that decorate the building on the outside prove functional inside these exam rooms. Relatively small and high up, the windows let in natural light without compromising patient privacy.

Connecting the building’s two floors is the main circulating staircase. As an architectural centerpiece, it uses color and visual movement to lead patients from the entry lobby up to the second floor: warm and expressive colors weave into the spatial design to create intuitive wayfinding for patients and visitors. The open work areas for medical caregivers and providers are designed with large walls of glazing to harvest natural light while visually connecting to the people and neighborhood of Brighton Park. 

Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point
How did the project change between the initial design stage and the completion of the building?

The changes from initial design to completion are rather dramatic. The original project included a significant partner who, when the project was at the permitting stage, had to drop out for financial reasons. When the project re-initiated, the total area decreased, going from three stories to two. A campus master plan envisions future wellness components in later phases.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.

Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point
Important Manufacturers / Products:

  • Exterior metal panel: ACM (Aluminum Composite Panel) Alucobond "Cupral Spectra" & silver metallic finishes (installed by Tushcall Engineering)
  • Curtainwall system and windows: Tubelite 200 Series
  • Interior Paint: Sherwin Williams (Orange)
  • Flooring finishes manufacturer: Shaw Contract

Photo: JGMA/ Focal Point
Drawing: JGMA
Drawing: JGMA

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