• LaBella Associates

A Rooftop Park for Roswell Park

A dose of fresh air and sunshine have long been prescribed as a cure for many ailments, but for most of the late 20th century, hospitals were designed to be air conditioned high rises with an emphasis on a clinical environment and reducing steps for care givers. Expansions and the need for adjacent medical office buildings have resulted in healthcare campuses that are compact urban sites with minimal opportunities for landscaping. So how do healthcare facilities respond when ample scientific research begins to clarify the importance of access to gardens and nature for healing?

Many healthcare campuses turn to the roof. Rooftop healing gardens have the benefits of being private – access is controlled through the hospital – and have the potential for expansive views. And the benefits of access to such a garden can be enormous – for patients, their families, and the facility’s staff. The challenges? Many hospital roofs host a myriad of mechanical equipment which produce enough noise to negate the serene atmosphere of a garden. But, without the presence of equipment, there’s a good chance the roof was not designed for the structural loads that would be associated with a roof top garden.

LaBella recently worked with Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY to overcome these challenges and deliver a beautiful, therapeutic rooftop garden. Founded in 1898 as the nation’s first cancer center, Roswell Park set the standard for today’s multidisciplinary approach to the highest quality cancer care. The center offers a patient-centered experience through a wide range of hospitality amenities. The latest of which includes the new 3,000 SF roof terrace and garden on the Main Hospital.

The project’s engineers worked to relocate existing mechanical equipment, but roof loading remained a challenge. Materials were carefully selected to meet allowable loads and withstand harsh Buffalo winters. Special lightweight engineered soils were used for the types of plantings desired, which included small trees. In addition, the project extended into the hospital itself as the design team worked to establish a second means of egress from the roof with minimal impact to the surrounding clinical spaces.

Many sustainable and custom details were also designed into the project, which included the planters, pavers, a sculptural bench, and the word wall which was conceptualized by Roswell Park’s architect, Jason Sobieraj. Words of “care”, “peace”, and “reflection” adorn a space designed to bring about just that.