“ People would walk into the building and they would kind of stop breathing for a minute. Not because they needed to go to the emergency department but because there was such a sense of warm grandeur about the space. ”

Renate M. Atkins Chief Operating Officer, Southwest Washington Medical Center

Established in 1858, The E.W. and Mary Firstenburg Tower supports Southwest Washington Medical Center’s (SWMC) 150-year-old mission of service to its patients, their families, staff and the surrounding community. Established in 1858 as a one-room wooden structure to serve settlers streaming westward into the Oregon Territory, it is now one of the oldest surviving hospitals west of the Rocky Mountains and is repeatedly recognized among the country’s “Top 100 Hospitals.”

SWMC faced an aging infrastructure and rapidly growing community with unmet medical needs and saw this as an opportunity to create an entirely new “healing” campus. The Firstenburg Tower is the first phase of the master plan and the most significant step toward transforming the healthcare experience of its constituents. The new eight-story tower nearly doubles SWMC’s current space and is one of the first hospitals in the country to fully integrate interventional radiology, cardiovascular, neurology and open-heart services in a unique one-stop-shop system.

The design also transformed an asphalt-covered parking lot into landscaped pedestrian pathways and lush healing gardens—including over 300 trees and 3,000 plantings. The hospital lobby was designed as a warm and welcoming space where patients, visitors, and staff could find respite. The lobby also doubles as a community gathering space with convenient public access to a centralized Health Resource Center, Internet-ready plug-and-play kiosks, a café, and flower shop.


Lighting Design


A continuous length of glass along the front stair tower is edge-lighted by fiber optics to further increase the building's visibility. The curved and stepped ceiling panels of the lobby are uplighted to enhance and highlight architectural form.


Uplighting onto the interior ceiling is provided by metal halide multi-point fixtures hidden in vertical reveals in stone-faced columns. Detailed calculations ensure illumination while shielding views into the fixtures.

Wait Areas

Light levels in waiting areas are reduced to create a calm area of respite in the busy hospital environment. Careful placement of wall-wash fixtures provide key wayfinding clues at each reception desk.

Patient Corridors

Patient corridors use a modulated system of light that includes wall mount uplights above each patient room door, footlights integrated into benches and small aperture accentlights at nurse work stations.

Patient Rooms

Indirect lighting and decorative fixtures are used in patient rooms to increase the feeling of hospitality and intimacy. Local switches provide a high level of flexibility for patients and their families.

Awards and Publications


Healthcare Design Awards, Citation of Merit
IIDA Pacific Northwest Chapter, INAwards, Honorable Mention in Healthcare
International Illumination Design Awards, Regional Award
Modern Healthcare Design Awards, Award of Excellence


Change Design: Conversations About Architecture as the Ultimate Business Tool, "Community Care," 2009
Architectural Record, "Southwest Washington Medical Center, E.W. and Mary Firstenburg Tower," August 2008
Interior Design, "A Beacon of Healing,", February 2008
Architectural Record, "On the Mend," July 2007
The Oregonian, "Hospitals Designed to Heal," April 2007