A women’s infertility treatment clinic in Okinawa, Japan that challenges the conventional healthcare design. The clinic shall bring patients back to the local natural environment instead of isolating them in a hyper-controlled medical environment.
There is almost no natural forest remaining in Okinawa, because most of the trees were burned during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Natural wooden architecture has become obsolete. To revive the forest of Okinawa on the ground of Okinawa, we decided to make wooden architecture that breathes like nature. At Sora no Mori, we understood that connection to nature is the priority, not isolation. We wanted to revive the indigenous forest of old as an integral component to the clinic. Of course the building houses state-of-the-art equipment for procedures such as in vitro fertilization, but it is also a kind of place where patients constantly have to walk outside. As patients receive treatment, they experience the newly planted indigenous forest that surrounds the timber structure. In this way, the architecture and landscape intimately link patients to nature as an integral aspect to their treatment. Sora no Mori is not a conventional healthcare clinic. The 500 plus timber columns are like a Roman villa where people may get a little lost, but that is a part of the fun. Patients can feel the rain and wind, but human beings are more waterproof than iPhones. We don’t melt in the rain!
The clinic is built primarily by wood with modern construction technique. The two-way eaves were solved by the wooden traditional method of laying beams. Small structural members which like a housing scale were design by reducing the column span, and lowering the building height. This solution was effective for economy. In addition to this, there was also an effect of simplifying the design of the joint detail by not concentrating the stress. As a result, it is possible to create wooden architecture like old ones in a special place called Okinawa. Due to the project being a connection between the natural environment and a hospital environment, many natural systems were implemented in the design. Natural materials, ventilation and sunlight were included wherever possible.
▼ 设计与大自然的交织，A wooden architecture that breathes like nature
Open or Enlosed hospital
Having a baby is a kind of natural cycle, a part of who we are. we are not designed to procreate in a sterilized environment. The mother and baby are both collections of microscopic life forms, and both are supposed to feel like a part of their surrounding environment. Of course, when we deal with a woman’s fertility, it has to be done with the utmost caution. We should treat the mother as a part of the natural ecosystem. This presented a lot of complaints from the local government representing the Ministry of Health and Safety. They said that all hospitals have to be inside, and they thought that we exposed everything to the outside because we didn’t have the money, but this wasn’t the case. We thought it would be better for the patients as human beings.
▼ 与周围环境融为一体的医疗空间，A clinic as a part of its surrounding environment
Even though the corridors of Sora no Mori clinic have roofs, they are exterior pathways. The pavilions are connected by small alleys, like a maze of Ryukyu limestone open to the wind and rain. The area below the eaves is only 2.1 meters high, and the eaves project more than 2 meters, so rain will not blow in, except during a typhoon. Rain screens have been installed, so there is no need to worry about mosquitoes and fresh air can be enjoyed all year round. But more than 50% of the building is covered outdoor space. In fact, beyond the desire to make places where one could enjoy Okinawa’s climate, the proposal to make outdoor corridors concealed an economic rationale. In hospital architecture, about half the floor area is occupied by corridors, which have significant energy and equipment costs for illumination and air conditioning.
▼ 开放室外走廊，the open corridor.
The operating room and the IVF (In vitro fertilisation) room are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The masonry of the building is locally sourced Ryukyu limestone and the operating rooms feature curved, cornerless walls. The illumination of the operating rooms have glowing, variable LED lighting to create a sense of comfort. These features relieve the tension that most people feel in sterile operating rooms.
▼ 半开放咨询室，semi-open information point
A resort-like space utilizing natural materials
As a clinic in a natural environment, we don’t want patients feeling trapped by the typical concept of the hospital. Whether you are intending to stay in a luxury resort or to undergo medical treatment, the results will be better if you can relax. We decided to make wooden architecture that breathes like nature, so most materials are natural or wooden, including doors and doorknobs, to create the atmosphere of a resort. Walking along the corridors connecting the buildings, the patients can relax amid the natural environment.
Sora no Mori is not a hospital. Even if it is a hospital legally, it is not hospital. It a place where the breath of life originates. A medical clinic for infertility treatment is legally a medical clinic. However, the women who go there are not sick people. Rather, they are healthier adults who seek baby – love to next generation. Two years have passed since the start of operation at the Sora No Mori clinic, and guests have come for consultation not only from the mainland of Okinawa but also from all over Japan. We have also prepared for overseas guests since the beginning of the design and are expected to expand the project further in the future.
▼等候室的观景空间，landscape space in the waiting room
▼ 开敞的医护病房，the open room
▼ 源自天然的建筑材料，natural materials.
2015 Good design prize, Japan Institute of Design Promotion (SORA no MORI CLINIC)
2015 JIA Award, The Japan Institute of Architects (SORA no MORI CLINIC)
Project Name: Sora No Mori
Location: Yaese, Okinawa
Site area: 12762.77.00m2
Building area: 3487.60m2
Total floor area: 2996.60m2
Completion Date: 2014.12