Located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in one of America’s snowiest cities, Marquette General Hospital’s aging facility was no longer equipped to serve one of the UP’s largest communities. When Duke LifePoint Healthcare purchased the hospital they called on Gresham Smith to design a new facility that would advance both the physical and economic health of the city. By generating a site plan that considers hospital function and the surrounding urban fabric and implementing design and construction methods optimized for the location, weather and budget, our 229-bed hospital and clinical services building looks to the future while honoring the Marquette community’s historic past.
After assessing several sites, Gresham Smith recommended locating the new hospital at the centermost point in downtown Marquette—an old trainyard next to the central business district. The brownfield site posed a challenge, but its central location and valuable history made it impossible to pass up. Nestled among historic one- and two-story brick buildings home to small restaurants and businesses, the patient tower is oriented towards the city’s iconic Lower Harbor Ore Dock, paying homage to the city’s identity as a mining town while also offering views of the surrounding wilderness and Great Lakes.
The town of Marquette receives an average of 150 inches of snow each year, making it one of the snowiest cities in the continental United States. With a goal of integrating the new building into the natural environment, Gresham Smith created a design that draws from the color palette of the region. The pattern of glass and white concrete on the hospital’s exterior echoes the repetition and color of a stand of birch trees, the building’s form channels the gentle waves and reflections on nearby Lake Superior and the hospital’s bricks contain reflective flakes of iron ore. The modern materials, married with local rhythms, successfully balance Duke LifePoint’s desire for a facility that exudes technological sophistication with the region’s organic beauty.
The building’s form is strategically designed to maximize views, energy consumption and operational efficiencies. The hospital’s major departments are oriented east to west to protect patient rooms from the setting sun’s glare, and additional glazing on the south side of the building takes advantage of southern sunlight. The building is rotated to better address the prevailing winter winds and prevent snow drifts in high-traffic areas. The clinical services building is positioned west of the main entrance to create a sunny and protected outdoor pocket, while offset patient tower wings create breathtaking views of Lake Superior, downtown and the Ore Dock. Gresham Smith partnered with the Michigan Audubon Society to reduce the glass’ reflectiveness and incorporate fritting to deter migratory birds.
The hospital’s two-story main concourse connects visitors to the hospital’s major functions and is bookended by two entrances—the ceremonial front door and the very necessary parking garage entrance that protects guests from the harsh winter weather. Patients and visitors can access each clinic from the main lobby, while physicians have back-of-house access to each space.