Images courtesy of HOK


UPMC Mercy Pavilion





The new UPMC Mercy Pavilion seeks to position the health system at the global forefront of ophthalmic research and care. Accommodating clinicians, researchers, educators and commercial partners, the facility serves as a destination for healing, an incubator for medical advancements and a hub for biomedical research.

Located on the UPMC Mercy Campus in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, this 410,000-square-foot,10-story facility houses the UPMC Vision Institute, the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and research labs. The pavilion is the first of its kind in the nation, a place of life-changing care for people with specialized vision or rehabilitation needs. 

Materials used for the facade — a mix of energy-efficient patterned glass, warm terra cotta and brick — respect the architectural character of Pittsburgh and the hospital’s prominent site on the Boulevard of the Allies. 

Crucially, the facility’s interior is designed to welcome blind and low-vision visitors, incorporating physical cues that help them navigate throughout the hospital. To ensure the success of this program, the team engaged one of the world’s few blind architects, Chris Downey, AIA, to advise on design strategies that best support these visitors.

Images courtesy of HOK

The floor plans and overall design streamline patient care and create a welcoming, engaging and warm setting for patients and visitors through lighting strategies that rely on contrast and brightness, sound as a wayfinding tool, and materials and textures that aid people who use canes. Central pods on surgical floors simplify the path of travel for patients exiting from an exam to get test results, pick up prescriptions at the in-house pharmacy or locate rehab or other treatment areas. In addition, exam rooms are equipped with technology that offers interactive and real-time patient education. The facility’s glass-enclosed staircase physically connects levels four through eight and establishes a staff gathering place, promoting employee interaction and contributing to the building’s distinctive facade. For staff unable to use the stairs, a glass elevator allows access to these floors while maintaining a cohesive aesthetic.

A low-vision, clinic-gym hybrid includes an interactive healing center, exam rooms, therapy stations and a central gym. The facility also includes a mock apartment and street lab to encourage patients to participate in simulations that teach them life skills. Training ramps and stairs in a rooftop healing garden similarly give patients a safe environment to practice and prepare for real-life experiences.

The new building also incorporates artwork throughout to inspire and engage patients, visitors and staff. In seeking to set an example for integrating art in the healing process, UPMC commissioned artworks that engage senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell to appeal to diverse tastes and be accessible to people of all abilities, including those with low vision.

WANT TO BE FEATURED? Visit the American Society for Health Care Engineering's Architecture for Health Showcase to learn more about participating.