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by John Howser | Thursday, Jul. 17, 2014, 9:04 AM
After little change since its construction in 1977, one of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s most familiar landmarks, the plaza behind Vanderbilt University Hospital (VUH), is undergoing restoration.
The VUH plaza is a major outdoor thoroughfare for tens of thousands of pedestrians each day, with its surface and existing architecture, including its planters, encompassing approximately 58,000 square feet of space.
Phase 1 of the plaza’s multi-phase restoration process began in March. The remainder of the restoration will be completed in 10 phases to allow for the plaza’s continued use throughout construction, which is expected to be complete by the fall of 2015.
“While we want to think of the plaza as a ground surface, it’s actually a large roof covering patient diagnostic and treatment areas and mechanical facilities that are essential to our operations,” said John Manning Jr., Ph.D., MBA, associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and chief administrative officer for VUMC. “The primary reason for the renovation is to replace a waterproof barrier, which is approaching 40 years of age, located below the plaza’s surface.
“Like you would replace an aging roof on your home, this restoration is essential to keep water out of important areas below the plaza.”
Beneath the VUH plaza are areas within the Department of Radiology & Radiologic Sciences, the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) facility, the tunnel system connecting VUH and Medical Center North, and several mechanical rooms containing equipment essential to sustain operations.
During construction, access to the 13 major building entrances from the plaza will be maintained, including access to: Langford Auditorium, Light Hall, the Robinson Research Building, VUH, The Vanderbilt Clinic, the Critical Care Tower and Au Bon Pain.
Replacing the waterproof barrier will require the removal of all existing pavers, planters and vegetation to reach the plaza’s concrete subsurface. Where possible, efforts will be made to reuse or repurpose the plaza’s existing shrubs and trees.
“To reduce future impact, the restoration to the plaza will be finished with materials and vegetation that will allow the subsurface to be accessed by Plant Services for maintenance and repair. The existing mortar-set pavers (brick) will be replaced with an accessible sand-set system, and new vegetation will be planted in trays and concrete planters that can be moved to access the areas below them. These new systems significantly improve accessibility and Vanderbilt’s ability to troubleshoot any future issues,” said the project’s planning architect, Donald Blair of Blair + Mui Dowd Architects PC.
The plaza’s redesign will have increased available seating with additional benches organized to allow small group gathering spaces. A new trellis will be constructed outside the TVC’s Courtyard Café to increase exterior dining capacity under the cover of shade.
“The plaza’s large open areas between Au Bon Pain and Langford Auditorium have been designed to perhaps better accommodate the Farmer’s Market and other large gatherings currently held in this area,” said Blair.
“During restoration the plaza will also receive new energy-efficient light fixtures and entry canopies with signage that will improve way-finding.”
John Howser, (615) 322-4747
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