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UPMC Mercy Opens Revolutionary Vision and Rehabilitation Facility

UPMC Mercy Pavilion will provide life-changing services for people with routine and advanced vision and physical rehabilitation needs.

UPMC Mercy Pavilion received its first patients on May 1, ushering in a new era of advanced vision care and healing. The 10-story, 410,000-sq.-ft. building in central Pittsburgh is home to the world-renowned UPMC Vision Institute and UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

HOK served as the lead designer for the patient-focused facility, working in close collaboration with doctors José-Alain Sahel, director of the UPMC Vision Institute, and Gwendolyn Sowa, director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

“We have gone beyond simply creating an accessible space. We’re creating a sense of community,” said Sowa at an April 20 ribbon-cutting. “Our spaces were designed with input from people with lived experience to inform how visitors will navigate this new environment.”

In addition to collaborating with UPMC, HOK partnered with consultant Chris Downey, one of the world’s few blind architects. The television program “60 Minutes” profiled Downey in 2019. The segment included footage of him working with HOK on the UPMC Mercy Pavilion.

Accommodating clinicians, researchers, educators and commercial partners, UPMC Mercy Pavilion will serve as a destination for healing, an incubator for medical advancements and a hub for biomedical research. The building’s brick and terra cotta facade complements the surrounding architecture of Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, while the interior welcomes blind and low-vision visitors with physical cues to help them navigate the space. The design includes lighting strategies that rely on contrast and brightness, sound as a wayfinding tool, and materials and textures that aid people with canes.

A low-vision, clinic-gym hybrid includes an interactive healing center, exam rooms, therapy stations and a central gym. A mock apartment and street lab encourage patients to participate in simulations that teach them life skills. Training ramps and stairs in a rooftop healing garden give patients a safe environment to prepare for real-life experiences.

Additional features of the building include:

  • Eight eye disease operating rooms.
  • 83 eye exam rooms.
  • 10 rehab exam rooms.
  • 100,600 square feet of research space.
  • A retail pharmacy and café.
  • Art installations that engage more than just the visual to include hearing, touch and smell.
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