Georgia Southern University, Waters College of Health Professions

Architecture responds to the complex ecology of a heavily wooded wetlands site in coastal Georgia, enabling an interactive, cutting-edge health professions facility tembrace and protect the site’s natural state. The organic, shaded oasis serves as a reposfor students and faculty. The project is a new paradigm for healthcare leadership training, a confluence of aspiring young medical professionals and technological advancements within an innovative multidisciplinary space. Sited outside of Savannah, the Health Professions Academic Center at Georgia Southern University sets the framework for a new health professions district on the Armstrong Campus. 

Design Challenge

How can the design for an innovative health professions building, including its aspirations to maximize function and harvest natural light, respond to and benefit from a complex Georgia wetlands site, a site which features sensitive hydrology, dense tree canopy, intense solar heat gain and hurricane force winds? Siting of the new building was critical to the solution: * maintaining the fluidity of the natural systems, including the hydrology and site contours. Site water management was considered at every stage to protect the ecology of wetlands, while strategically draining the gently sloping topography. * saving as many trees possible and taking advantage of their protection to diffuse sunlight. * connecting strongly with existing buildings to frame the new health professions district. To achieve compelling vistas from common spaces to the wetlands and to maximize indoor-outdoor connection, a sweeping southern canopy was designed using multiple parametric studies to mitigate solar heat gain in the warmer months yet allow in desired winter sun. The canopy reaches out to the center of campus on its eastern edge, yielding a dramatic entrance and further knitting together the district.

Physical Context

As a unique setting in a campus otherwise featuring traditional Georgian buildings on rectilinear quads, this site provided the opportunity for an organic, shaded oasis for students and faculty. The building’s exterior curves were designed to both preserve and emphasize the footprint of the wetlands. The project required evaluation of the indigenous features to maintain the site’s inherent natural beauty and bountiful trees. Numerous magnolias, hickories, oaks, and other specimens were identified as key elements to protect. Small hardscape areas are largely protected from the sun by canopies or overhanging trees. These exterior spaces are intimate and introspective, encouraging individuals to find opportunities to engage with the surrounding environment. Both bicycle and pedestrian paths weave between tall trees and provide meandering passages with views of the building and site’s key features. Material palettes balance warm earth tones with energetic pops of color: diamond-shaped flatlock metal panels provide a shimmering texture that engages with the shadows from the adjacent tree canopies and the rough dark brick harkens back to the rich masonry textures found throughout historical Savannah. On the interior, stained shiplap recalls the regional agrarian vernacular and other natural and locally sourced materials provide an environmentally friendly palette.