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Plans eye facility fit for a king

Carlton DeWolff and his wife got the royal treatment last week-literally, at a lavish ceremony near Amman, Jordan, to honor the late King Hussein.
DeWolff’s firm has designed an 800,000-square-foot hospital for a mountaintop roughly 15 miles southwest of Amman and overlooking the Dead Sea.
On April 1, DeWolff and his wife, Jean, were there to watch King Abdullah lay the foundation stone for the $250 million complex.
The King Hussein Institute for Biotechnology and Cancer groundbreaking was a milestone for DeWolff Partnership Architects LLP, but the design process is ongoing.
“As things change, you go through schematic design, which is a rough design of it, and then design development is where you really squeeze nuts to bolts. The final design comes out of that. That’s about where we are right now,” said James Newton, business development manager at De-Wolff Partnership.
“We’re about a third of the way through design development,” he added.
Despite the local firm’s history of designing health care facilities, little could be done to prepare it for the scope of this project, Newton said.
“A few weeks ago, I remember Bud said, ‘You have to remember, we’re not dealing with a client. We’re dealing with a country.’ Right there, that’s the difference,” Newton said.
DeWolff said the king did not want the typical hospital. He wanted a city on top of a mountain-but not a modern city, more of a village square, DeWolff explained. The king thought DeWolff’s initial 2005 renderings captured that.
“And the project had to be secret,” DeWolff added. “I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because the rule is until his majesty has approved everything it is not to be published. We were working under a cloak of secrecy.”
The Institute is the largest project in the firm’s history-close to 20 consultants, including medical programmers, research laboratory consultants and equipment consultants to determine how the hospital rooms and departments should be organized.
To coordinate the different parties, the firm holds regular conferences and records them to verify details and keep people on the same page. In addition, the firm has set up an office in Jordan where the consultants and designers meet.
In addition to the hospital, design plans include amenities for patients’ families and visiting medical professionals, such as a hotel, conference center, shopping areas and dining areas.
The complex is slated to include entertainment facilities for patients and housing for elderly cancer patients.
The project is ambitious but extremely exciting, Newton said.
The groundbreaking itself was mind-blowing, DeWolff said.
“In 45 years I have never been involved in a groundbreaking like this,” DeWolff said.
The pomp and circumstance was extraordinary and exceeded only by King Hussein’s funeral nine years ago, De-Wolff was told.
“It was like a movie,” DeWolff said.
Dignitaries mingled at the reception where tall billowing drapes of sheer white cascaded over white carpeting laid over the rocky landscape, Jean DeWolff said.
“It was phenomenal, done in a Bedouin-style tent. It just kept going and going,” she said.
DeWolff Partnership ranked fourth among architecture firms in Rochester on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list, ranked by the number of local registered architects. Health care is one of the firm’s specialties. Local examples include Geneva General Hospital, Monroe Community Hospital Wellness and Fitness Center, Park Ridge Hospital and the Sands Cancer Center.
But it was the firm’s work out of state that attracted the king’s attention, Newton said.
The firm was mentioned when a former client heard the King of Jordan was looking to build a research facility.
Samir Khlief M.D., who will head the institute, originally spoke to James Black M.D. about the project when it was but an idea.
“That connection comes back to us because we had done major work at Johns Hopkins University when Dr. Black was the CEO there and also the University Hospitals at Cleveland when he was CEO there,” Newton said.
Both men are collaborators on the project.
Among them is associate architect Khaled Azzam. The Egyptian, with offices in England and Egypt, has helped the firm understand the myriad design considerations for the project-cultural and religious. Azzam has previous experience working with the king on the design of his palace.
“He’s been an amazing help,” DeWolff said.
“I designed the footprint and the concept, and I had an entry, which in the United States usually is a very large statement. (Azzam) pointed out that in the villages there are no big statement entries,” De-Wolff explained. “What you do is create a very dignified entry that’s not overwhelming, and then you decorate it with Jordanian details, geometrics and things like that.”
Unlike the consultants, who are mainly Americans, contractors for the project will be Jordanians.
“The construction value there is a lot cheaper than here, obviously,” Newton said.
DeWolff said if the project were to be built with U.S. contractors the total cost would not be $250 million but closer to $500 million.
“I cannot even describe this project, it’s so special,” DeWolff said. It will combine the most modern equipment near what will look like an ancient town square, complete with kiosks for vendors selling fruits and vegetables.
[email protected] / 585-546-8303

04/11/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal

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