Concrete Thinking Think Concrete
Case Studies  > Masonry Contributes to the Good Health of a Nation
Designers weave permanence and artistic motifs into Indian Health Service’s new hospital façade.
Print   eMail
The Navajo Nation needed a new replacement facility for health care. The Indian Health Service wanted a building that would require a minimum of maintenance while outlasting its predecessor, constructed in 1938.

The exterior colors and stepped-back shape are reminiscent of the surrounding natural landscape.

The result is the Ft. Defiance Indian Hospital (FDIH) in Ft. Defiance, Arizona. A state-of-theart comprehensive health care facility, FDIH provides for inpatient care, diagnostics, treatment, surgery, labor and delivery, outpatient and dental care services, and—the first hospital in the Indian Health Service system to do so— inpatient psychiatric care for adolescents. Concrete masonry units were chosen as primary exterior material because they offered permanence with low maintenance. Masonry not only fulfilled all the construction requirements, it also allowed artistic designs to be incorporated into the building’s façade, thereby meeting cultural needs of the community that FDIH serves.
Culture and Heritage
Indian heritage exerted a strong influence on building design. FDIH was designed to be responsive to the lifestyle and culture of the Navajo people, including building orientation, natural light, outdoor spaces, art works, colors, and patterns.

As demonstrated on the nursing pod, multi-colored concrete masonry units, brightly colored window frames, and shadows that dance in and out of the wall surfaces create an interesting, ever-changing appearance.

Traditional Navajo culture suggests orienting a facility’s main entrance toward the east to receive the blessing from the morning sun. Clerestories complemented the orientation, providing natural light all along the north-south axis of the building. Designs that are appropriate to the Navajo culture were incorporated into the surface of the building. Whereas red rock formations and mesas surrounding the site provided the context for the selection of colors and textures, it was Navajo rug decorations that inspired the patterns. Integral colored CMUs supplied the palette that allowed the flexibility to create building façades with interest, rhythms, consistency of scale, and variety of colors and textures. Generally, careful preplanning makes it easy and cost effective to weave artistic embellishments into wall surfaces built with masonry.
Forward Thinking: Room to Grow
At 240,000 sq ft, the new facility is designed to meet current needs—but with flexibility in mind. Internally, the structural system was designed to accommodate interior alterations without excessive reworking. Externally, the building was sited on the property to allow expansions to the south.

Enduring Health
Masonry has inherent qualities that make it an ideal construction material for hospitals and other health care facilities. It stands up to heavy use and protects occupants—some of whom have restricted mobility— from fire, heavy winds, and all types of natural disasters. Its thermal mass characteristics offer energy saving performance. What’s more, masonry contributes to excellent indoor air quality.
This hospital was designed to meet all the latest health care standards. Masonry provides strength and permanence. Owing to its durability and need for little maintenance, masonry makes for a cost effective building material that presents a solid, long lasting image.

Strong horizontal lines mimic the mesas, while simple landscaping gives the impression that the building was created there like other rock formations in the area.

Appearance and aesthetics, versatility and value, safety and security, masonry met the needs of everyone associated with this building, from designers and builders, to the owner, to workers, patients, and other visitors who use the facility each day.

Project Team:
Architect: Wyatt/Rhodes + FLUOR, —Architects of Record ; Johnson Smitthipong & Rosamond Associates, —Design Architects
Structural Engineer: FLUOR
Contractor: Flintco Constructive Solutions West
Masonry Supplier: Sun Valley Masonry
Photographer: Gill Kenny