Although newspapers and popular magazines covered the remarkable feat of providing industrial health care for World War II home-front Kaiser shipyard workers, a review in the prestigious trade publication Architect and Engineer was endorsement on a different level.
A&E was considered one of the “most important professionally oriented architectural magazines” in California’s history. Their May 1945 article, with cover photo, gushed about the aesthetic and practical features of this hospital that was handling 1,500 patients a day.
While Kaiser Permanente founding physician Sidney R. Garfield helped plan many early Permanente Foundation hospitals and clinics, the huge expansion to the preexisting Fabiola Hospital in Oakland was designed by Palo Alto-based architect Birge Malcolm Clark. The A&E review comments:
If, as he has stated, Dr. Garfield's first thought is to prevent illness and keep people well, he has admirably adapted the atmosphere of this institution to that purpose, for on first inspection there is little that is "hospitalish" about the place. The familiar odors that we associate with hospitals are absent.
However, it’s clear that Dr. Garfield had a hand in shaping this facility — the review notes one of his trademark features:
The surgeries were built, schematically, in a circle around a central work and sterilizing area, which permits the patients to enter through exterior corridors, thus avoiding cross traffic. This plan was thoroughly tried out at the Kaiser Hospital in Vancouver and improved in this plant.
The healing features of the design were also noted:
The halls are wide, clean and open to outside air and light; the reception rooms are furnished in good taste in a restrained domestic style; the patients' rooms are simple, comfortable and attractive; there are outside, lawn covered courts of ample dimensions where convalescents may rest in wheel chairs; and there are sun decks.
This review was published months before the Permanente Health Plan was opened to the public, and the magazine saw the potential for this novel and effective program:
When that day comes thousands will thank providence that the men who built the Permanente Foundation Hospital worked so faithfully.
These buildings were demolished in early 2018, their long service to affordable health care fulfilled. Kaiser Permanente’s new facilities receive professional accolades for LEED environmental compliance as well as aesthetics and community engagement, but it all started with recognition for what’s “not hospitalish.”
Special thanks to librarian David Eifler from the UC Berkeley's Environmental Design Library for his help in accessing this publication.