From Concrete to Glass: Hospital Cafeteria Lets in the Light

BOSTON — As of September, patients, visitors and employees at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston will have a larger, removed cafeteria with a new name: Garden Café.

Chicago-based architect Bertrand Goldberg originally constructed the 13,500-square-foot dining room in the 1970s. With a cast-in-place concrete exterior and 4-foot-square windows, the cafeteria was a dark and enclosed space.

In order to improve the patient experience, Bruner/Cott & Associates, based in Cambridge, Mass., and New Haven, Conn.-based Cama Inc., formed a design team to tackle the overhaul. They incorporated evidence-based design concepts such as incorporating nature and daylight into the plan. Gone are the small windows and concrete exterior, now replaced with full-height glass walls and planting beds built off the side of the second-story cafeteria. The glass walls are also etched with an abstract grass pattern that becomes more translucent toward the top.

Inside, the team got rid of the windowless hallway that separated the two dining rooms, adding 2,000 square feet of dining space. The 292-seat area now includes high and low banquette seating options, an infused water station and a yogurt/juice bar. An expanded salad bar was relocated outside of the serving area to allow customers to more easily line up for meals. The catering kitchen and staging area were also moved to another floor.

Designers added aesthetic touches, including quartzite counters, an exposed ceiling, decorative green glass and sculptured wall tile, to the interior. Originally, the floor was going to be replaced with polished concrete, but construction workers found an original terrazzo floor underneath layers of carpet and rubber, which they decided to restore.

In addition to the cafeteria, Brigham and Women’s Hospital is working on a two-phase addition and renovation to the NICU, which should be completed by November 2017.