A Big-Box Store Finds New Life as a Healthcare Clinic

With clever spatial arrangements and distinctive materials, HDR transformed a Sports Authority in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood into an outpatient clinic.

Outside the new Advocate Outpatient Center in Chicago, located in an old big-box store, architecture firm HDR installed a metal canopy with landscaping and a seating area. Courtesy HDR © Tom Harris

Within the tight constraints of a busy corner in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, HDR found room to riff on a theme. Continuing its 20-plus-year collaboration with Advocate Medical Group (AMG), the architecture firm turned a former Sports Authority into an outpatient health center with clever spatial arrangements and the interweaving of distinct materials. With typologies like big-box stores and strip malls on their way out, the clinic serves as an instructive example of how these buildings might be transformed.

Biting into the brick exterior of the building’s lower volume, a new metal canopy flanks fresh landscaping that places a comfortable distance between a small surface lot and the lobby interior, creating a protected entrance and outdoor seating space. HDR also added aluminum panels to an attached parking garage, reducing its visual impact and disguising the slope of its ramp to give the building’s eastern face a new, taller profile. It was also an energy saving move: The panels’ varying degrees of perforation allow for natural ventilation.

Courtesy HDR © Tom Harris

Over its long partnership with AMG, HDR has developed standard design elements for its many clinics, like color-coded modules—including exam and point-of-care rooms, teamwork spaces, offices, and toilets—whose condensed floor plans reduce the amount of time providers spend on their feet. At the Lakeview center, the modules had to both reflect their urban surroundings and adapt to the existing building, which is bisected by a thick, four-hour firewall. HDR painted the modules’ outer walls in lively colors and used the firewall as a datum, carving into it shallow alcoves that ease the transition from waiting to care spaces.

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The concept, developed with input from the local community and clinic users, had one main challenge, says Tom Lee, design principal at HDR: “to keep things as simple as possible…so that the space can be as intuitive as it is.” And indeed, the most impactful moves—projected bricks that avoid the blank-facade fate of the building across the street, a corner staircase that doubles as a light well to illuminate the building’s lower level, textured glass that backdrops the registration booths—are the simplest.

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