In response to the rampant growth of the Covid-19 pandemic, it became urgent to formulate an emergency project that increased the number of rooms under negative pressure in Pedro Hispano Hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The willingness to be part of the solution at a difficult time was the engine for the development of this philanthropic project, which was developed in just one week. The briefing asked for a realistic, economic and rapidly built project that would represent a valuable contribution for the ICU professionals and users. This extension doubles the number of ICU beds, reinforcing the hospital's response capacity against the pandemic. Furthermore, being a long-term vision project, it translates into a new attribute for the hospital's regular service. The new ICU wing includes 11 individual negative pressure rooms, equipped with antechambers that control the airflow and the pressure between the room and the shared space of the new unit. The physical continuity of this structure with the existing ICU, through a connecting corridor, ensured efficiency gains in managing processes and human resources. Constructed in just 25 working days, the project was developed in a model of continuous collaboration between architects and the Intensive Care Service team to ensure total adaptation to the needs of patients and healthcare professionals. Pioneer in Portugal, this project has a high degree of replicability. Due to the contingency that implied a quick realization of the project, we opted for a wood frame / OSB (Oriented Strand Board) process – a system of glued agglomerated wood panels and structures in solid pine wood treated in an autoclave. This system guarantees the rigidity, stability, and support of the structure, while also being easy to assemble. Produced in an industrial process, the panels are fitted to the pre-assembled structure, reducing the execution time by about 80% compared to conventional systems and reducing the necessary workforce. Given the state of emergency in force in the country at the time of the project's execution, it was necessary to consult the market in advance, assess the options available and ensure the commitment of the supplier companies involved to ensure the application of all the pretensions of the project under development. This consultation preceded not only the decisions in the structural scope but also the other specialties of the project, whether it was the mechanical, electrical, medicinal gases, among others. One of the most complex technical components of an Intensive Care Service is the HVAC mechanical system associated with rooms under negative pressure. It requires specific materials and machines that were previously taken care of in stock at the supplying companies. Thus, it was possible to implement this project rapidly, ensuring the unit's construction in the expected time. Throughout the construction process and at the hospital's request, the interior space organization has undergone a few adjustments. In the exterior, the facade's fire resistance class was reinforced, including appropriate frames and allowing the size of the spans to be reassessed. Thus, the oculi – that strengthen the close relationship between the unit and the surroundings – were developed. The building is paneled with an interior structure in a 70x70 solid wood grid, with rock-wool insulation. In the exterior, the unit is covered with slatted panels of 15mm-thick thermowood. In the interior, it is covered with white laminated agglomerate slabs, also 15mm-thick, which contrast with the gray vinyl floor. Homogeneous and minimalist, the building favors the continuity of the language of the hospital environment that surrounds it. Brightness, fluidity, and tranquility are combined in a unit designed to be functional and efficient, but where aesthetics are not overlooked. From the outside, the volume establishes symbiotic relationships with the surrounding buildings, harmoniously articulating Art and Science. The drawings by a retired Visual Arts teacher coexist with a phrase by Pedro Hispano, a 13th-century doctor: "Medicine aims to conserve the health and to recover the lost health by eliminating the disease." Almost romantic, this fusion exalts the tranquility that contrasts with the harsh moment we are witnessing. Illustration has always been an important communication and enchantment tool. In a time of uncertainty and fear, the project was developed with the commitment of many people. In total, from design to construction, more than 300 people collaborated in the creation of the unit. Architects, designers, engineers, technicians, and other workers embraced the challenge, making it possible to challenge the laws of time and eliminate the constraints caused by the advance of the pandemic and the consecutive social isolation. This project would not have been possible without the participation of the business community, which promptly responded to the challenge posed by the local public entities. In fact, in an unprecedented case in Portugal, around 20 companies joined forces and jointly donated a total of 650 thousand euros in two weeks. The success was also due to the efforts of 35 construction companies. In the middle of a pandemic, these teams worked with dedication day and night, against the clock, to complete the project on schedule and with a high level of quality. In a moment of uncertainty and fragility at a global level, this project stands out for being living proof of the power of network, community, and solidarity. For this reason, we believe that this project symbolizes the characteristics needed to overcome the next challenges that the world faces: the joining of forces, the search for community solutions, and the achievement of the seemingly impossible.
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In the last 28 years, we have been developing projects of different scales and in the most diverse architecture segments, such as commercial, corporate, residential, hospitality, industrial, healthcare, mobility and urban space. Combining a solid experience with ongoing research and innovation, we are committed to pursuing integrated and sustainable solutions through strategic planning. Our mission is to improve people’s lives through architecture, allowing meaningful interactions between them and their surrounding space.
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