A fortress with an ocean view: Making Miami Beach’s only hospital a landmark and safe haven

Mount Sinai Medical Center, Skolnick Surgical Tower and Hildebrandt Emergency Center, Miami Beach, Florida

One look at the sweeping beaches and ocean views and its obvious why so many people choose to call Miami Beach home, and why the city hosts millions of tourists from all over the world every year.

Mount Sinai’s new emergency department and patient tower reflects and showcases Miami Beach’s distinctive landscape and culture. Sometimes it’s just by putting the stunning coastal views on display through a grand, light-filled atrium and floor-to-ceiling windows in patient rooms. Other times it’s reflected subtly in the chosen interior color palette of blues and greens in furniture and artwork throughout the buildings. The building’s dramatic façade is designed with compound curves instead of traditional straight lines to ensure its visual impact and provide a contemporary take on Miami’s deep-rooted art deco heritage.

But the main reason so many people choose to work, play and visit Miami Beach — the proximity to the ocean — is what makes the city so vulnerable to weather-related disasters. As the only hospital in this beach area, we had to design this project differently than most, creating a fortress that could withstand hurricane-force winds, 100-year flood levels and extended power outages.

The hospital was built to exceed local building code requirements of buildings being seven feet above sea level by a full three feet. It also houses the city’s emergency command center to manage response and recovery efforts during and after natural disasters.

We applied a signature level of detail and thoughtfulness to the project from conception to opening — we led master planning for the greater campus, designed the new tower, and Blue Cottage of CannonDesign helmed the operational and transition planning, move management and coordination leading up to the first day the doors were open to patients. This collective effort resulted in a healthcare space that fits the Miami Beach ocean-front aesthetic while being a state-of-the-art medical facility that is a reliable safe resource during hurricane season.

What’s on the horizon for healthcare and civic partnerships? As the conversation around healthcare in the United States shifts to questions of access and affordability, more behemoth healthcare organizations are involving themselves in crucial public health conversations. As hospitals become more than just places to receive medical care—providing protection from inclement weather, a social services resource and more, cities are partnering with health institutions to create a more robust public health value.