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Soothing scenes inspire healing

Saint-Gobain Glass at Saifee Hospital, Mumbai

Saifee Hospital is believed to be the 'pearl', 'pendant', 'precious gem' of the 'Queen's Necklace' that Mumbai's iconic Marine Drive coastal road is called. Towering over the Charni Road, it is a magnificent landmark which graces the skyline of the city that never sleeps. Inaugurated in 2006 by the then Prime Minister of India, Dr.Manmohan Singh, it has since carved a niche for itself in the healthcare sector. Today, besides the quality of healthcare it provides, the hospital is also an interesting case study when it comes to the architecture of healing spaces.

The old Saifee Hospital was first constructed in 1948. In 2001, it was decided to build a new hospital on the existing premises, and the project was commissioned to Architects J.P.Parekh & Son. Saifee Hospital is the first in the Asia-Pacific region to use beds that allow patients to adjust the backrest, head and knee-break with the touch of a button. It is the first hospital in Mumbai to include fiber-optic cables for high-speed data transfer, a complete physiotherapy rehabilitation center and an in-house water treatment facility that meets World Health Organization standards for potable water. When it was constructed, at 236 ft., it was the tallest hospital in Mumbai.

Entrusted with the task of making the building a "shining symbol of hospital design" and a "most beautiful pendant" in the Queen's Necklace, Architect Parag Parekh and his team found inspiration in the beauty of the region and the principles of Fatimid architecture, which relies heavily on the use of projected portals and domes, keel-shaped arches, stucco decoration and iconographic inscriptions. By coupling these ideals with contemporary techniques, they were successful in creating a building that is at once modern and traditional.

Parekh designed the facility, which fuses the client's emotional aspirations and Islamic design icons with the flexibility, technology and adaptability required of any hospital design. While the hospital's interior empowers patients and offers the best in modern healthcare, the exterior is just as impressive. Parekh notes that the building's exterior was the most important challenge. He remarks "The elevation is designed so that, with just a glance at the building, the eye yearns to stop and linger."

An alumnus of the Carnegie Mellon University, Parekh had the opportunity to showcase his design to the University President, Jared L.Cohon on his visit to Asia. Cohon toured the hospital and met with Parag and local leaders to know more about the building's inspiration and impact on the region.

Drawing from the region's architectural traditions and the site of the hospital, Parekh adds, “Working on this project involved focusing simultaneously on the architecture, interiors and the medical planning. We wanted to create a physical setting that soothes the emotional stresses of disorientation, isolation, fear, pain and powerlessness that patients commonly experience in hospitals. In keeping with this objective, the team designed a hospital whose interior provides light and comfort to patients. Xenon lights replicate sunlight in its operating rooms and ample daylight streams through the hospital with the extensive use of glass from Saint-Gobain.

The glass used for this building was a combination of SGG Cool-lite (DGU) and SGG Parsol (DGU). This combination of an energy-efficient solar control glass and a tinted glass ensured a high light transmission during daytime and minimum internal reflection, to reduce the "mirroring effect" during night time. Double Glazing for the facade, as well as for the windows ensured heat reduction and acoustic insulation in the building. Hence glass contributed immensely to the factors that are elementary to a healing space. (

The emphasis of creating a holistic healing space is indeed evident throughout the hospital, beginning from the entrance where a Quran verse cites “And when I fall sick it is He that heals me." Yes, Saifee Hospital is more than its blend of classic Arabian and contemporary glass facade architectural styles. It is about meeting the eternal need for creating holistic healing spaces, and that is what makes it the jewel in the crown.

(Watch this video to know more about Ar.Parag Parekh's experience working with Saint-Gobain Glass)