Building the new Stanford Hospital began long before the architect drew his first sketches. The seedlings for a new hospital were planted in 1994 following the devastating Northridge earthquake.
That event sparked new legislation requiring all California hospitals to meet a higher standard of seismic safety by 2030—to not just withstand an earthquake, but to remain operational during and directly after an earthquake.
“That is a very different building type,” said George Tingwald, MD, AIA, director of medical planning for Stanford Health Care (SHC). “It requires a lot more infrastructure and a lot more steel.”
Initially, SHC leaders had hoped to be able to seismically retrofit the existing hospital, which includes the original 1959 building and two additions from 1973 and 1983. But the difficulty of completing that work while remaining open to patient care solidified the decision to build a new hospital. From that decision, the Stanford University Medical Center (SUMC) Renewal Project was born, a decade-plus, $5 billion effort to expand and modernize Stanford Medicine’s facilities to serve the region’s growing health care needs and accommodate advances in medical technology and patient care. In addition to building a new adult hospital, the Renewal Project included an expansion and modernization of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, renovation of the Hoover Pavilion medical complex and updated labs and teaching spaces at the School of Medicine.
“There was a big vision of where we wanted to go,” said Tingwald, who joined Stanford Health Care in 2008. “We knew at the time that there were things we didn’t know and technologies that would develop,” he said. So the design had to be flexible. “We purposely planned the building in a generic fashion. We made the operating rooms big, developed the interventional platform concept, made everything large and flexible to allow us to make changes during the design process.”
One of the hospital’s first hurdles was gaining approval from the city of Palo Alto in 2011 to break the 50-foot height limit. Clearing a site for the new Stanford Hospital was another monumental task, requiring the demolition of offices at 1100 Welch Road and the former 600-car visitor parking garage. Upgrading utilities and widening Welch Road were also part of the Renewal Project’s master plan.
On May 1, 2013, the official groundbreaking took place. By 2015, all of the foundation work was complete, the base isolators were installed and the 18,000-ton steel structure was up.
The next two years saw rapid changes to the outer and inner structures. The exterior was covered in glass. The pedestrian bridge connecting both hospitals was built. The new 900-car staff parking structure was complete. Landscape work began. The progress inside was just as impressive. Interiors were built out. Patient rooms began to take shape. The interventional platform was built and major medical and imaging equipment was installed. Throughout 2019, furnishings continue to be installed and artwork is beginning to appear in the public gardens and interior spaces.
Today, finishing touches continue to punctuate the grandeur of the new Stanford Campus. Pasteur Drive reopened. Signage is in place. The 30-foot Buckyball sculpture graces the front entrance. Most importantly, the hospital received its Temporary Certificate of Occupancy in early July.
Just weeks away from welcoming its first patients, the new Stanford Hospital opened its doors to the community on September 14 and 15, a public celebration of the remarkable achievement that’s been more than a decade in the making.