The College of Health Professions (CHP) building at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) will be a new, modern medical education facility in the heart of downtown Charleston. Providing classrooms, laboratories, common spaces, and support spaces for faculty, staff, and students, the building will accommodate the university’s substantial growth in the physical therapy and occupational therapy professions.
Designed by Clark Nexsen in collaboration with SMHa, the approximately 90,000 square feet CHP building will encompass six floors. Housing the Department of Rehabilitation Services (physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language pathology) and the Center for Rehabilitation Research and Neurological Conditions (CRRNC), the building features a variety of multipurpose classrooms. On the second, third, and fourth floors, large multipurpose educational spaces accommodate the physical/occupational therapy (PT/OT) programs, allowing students to learn in a lab and classroom setting without having to go back and forth between the two spaces. The third floor also includes a human abilities lab, which simulates a patient’s living space (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc.) to help students prepare for working with patients in real-life conditions.
Office spaces for faculty and staff, classrooms, and conference rooms are on the first through fourth floors. Natural light was incorporated heavily into the design as many employees don’t have windows in their current offices. While the fifth and sixth floors are currently designed as shell spaces, our team is supporting MUSC with a grant proposal to upfit those floors. Pedestrian walkways were also incorporated into the design, connecting the CHP building to the Bioengineering Building to the south and the future College of Medicine building to the north.
The design of the building is driven by the idea of movement, conveying through its aesthetic the work of the programs within to support people and restore physical movement. Inspired by muscle fibers and their layers of thicker and thinner elements, the exterior features staggered vertical elements to express the idea of movement. Due to site constraints – a historic brick wall, limited space, and a large oak tree – the building is hemmed in from the sides, with the upper floors larger than the ground floor. The exterior has two distinct sides, with brick and precast concrete facing the street and a pushing and pulling eastern façade that bends around the oak tree.
With stringent building requirements due to flooding in the area, the CHP building is built three feet above the floodplain. For resiliency and to avoid possible flood damage, a large penthouse will be located on the roof to house the mechanical and electrical equipment. Hurricane resistance will also be applied throughout the building to protect from high-velocity debris.
With physical therapy and occupational therapy enrollment expected to double within the next few years, MUSC’s new CHP building will accommodate the university’s expansive growth. Between its central location and easy access to neighboring buildings, the CHP building is positioned to be part of a new center of space sharing, collaboration, and learning for the next generation of healthcare professionals.