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A New Front Door to Harlem

Harlem Hospital Center Modernization
New York, New York, USA

“The modernization project is an example that we are committed to providing superior medical care and services for our patients now and in the future.”

John M. Palmer, PhD
Executive Director, Harlem Hospital Center

The Mural Pavilion is the new centerpiece of the Harlem Hospital Center.

The building unifies previously disconnected structures spread over two city blocks to create an integrated healthcare campus. A light-filled atrium and a dramatic, five-story, historically significant mural welcome visitors and form a new front door to the community.

All major clinical elements at Harlem Hospital have been organized to provide patient- and family-friendly care and treatment. The patient-centered care design integrates inpatient, emergency room and outpatient services under one roof, creating a unified healthcare complex from seven previously disparate structures. The top of the building is designed to accommodate the future addition of two floors.

Through a celebration of its historic cultural context, HOK designed the hospital to welcome and serve Harlem’s diverse community of cultures. The iconic mural on the exterior of the Mural Pavilion illuminates Harlem’s history and culture while showcasing the hospital’s prominent role in the community. Soaring 65 feet high and spanning a city block, the colorful, 12,000-square-foot glass facade mural depicts excerpts from the story of the African diaspora, creating a dramatic frontispiece along Lenox Avenue for the circa-1887 Harlem institution.

African-American artist Vertis Hayes created the “Pursuit of Happiness” mural in 1937 as part of the federal government’s Works Progress Administration program. Visible from the street and accessible from the atrium, a permanent art gallery houses the complete “Pursuit of Happiness” mural, with works of other WPA artists in adjacent galleries.


260,000 sq. ft. / 24,150 sq. m.


Construction Services
Facilities Assessment
Facility Programming
Interior Design
Landscape Architecture
Master Planning
Medical Planning


AIA New York – Honor Award


28 June 2013
“Harlem Hospital Shortlisted for Facade of the Year Award”
World Architecture News

16 September 2012
“At Harlem Hospital, Murals Get a New Life”
The New York Times