In the heart of Chinatown in San Francisco, a new building towers above the rest on Jackson Street in all of its state-of-the-art, modern splendor. This new construction stands in place of a monumental structure dating back to 1899. It represents decades of trials, triumphs, and history of the tenacious and hardworking Chinatown community. In April of 2016, the legacy of this community culminated in the 100th anniversary grand opening of the new Chinese Hospital.
What began as a dispensary in the late 19th century has now blossomed into a full-service center with the highest quality of care, advanced technology, and superior suites promising privacy and comfort. After the hospital community raised nearly $200 million for these upgrades, the 8-story building has improved with an expanded emergency center, a new diagnostic imaging department, Cardio-pulmonary outpatient services, a telemetry unit, East West medicine services, a pharmacy, and a Chinese Community Health Plan services center.
In the summer of 2015, Chinese Hospital approached Image Group with the proposal for this tremendous project. It was clear that they required a business with the expertise needed to design, map, manufacture, program, and manage the signage component of the large-scale hospital reconstruction. The team at Image Group took the assignment with enthusiasm and dove in headfirst.
One of the most important aspects of the redesign process was to create a culturally sensitive blueprint that accurately reflected the many units of the hospital. Rebecca Redmon, who has over 20 years of experience consulting in the architectural signage industry, worked closely with the team at Chinese Hospital to turn concept imagery into reality. “At first, the vision for the redesign was abstract. We wanted to incorporate water, air, and movement, but weren’t sure how these concepts would materialize. By working with our designers at Image Group, these ideas evolved into what is now the dragon mosaic community wall at the terrace of the new Patient Tower,” Rebecca described.
In addition to the intricate dragon wall made of 404 hexagonal tiles donated by supporters and raising over $3 million, the Image Group team continued to work closely with Chinese Hospital to create symbolic themes for each floor. “For example,” Rebecca illustrated, “It was decided that the nursing unit of the hospital would be adorned with butterflies and dragonflies to represent the afterlife. The intensive care unit would feature fish swimming upstream to represent luck and strength. The surgery floor would have a pagoda theme to represent the pagoda festival that occurred in this unit in the early 20th century.”
After these emblematic designs were generated, it was time to turn ideas into reality. Through detailed management and daily coordination, the General Manager at Image Group, Mariana McGrain, worked ceaselessly to engineer this feat. “Because we were working with so many teams and trades at once during the hospital build, we created a bullet proof package that installers could implement easily and quickly,” Mariana recounted. With over 800 signs to install, this was no small accomplishment. “Installs were happening on a daily basis. We made sure that the next day was meticulously planned and scheduled so that the installation packages were faultless.”
All of this attention to detail and thorough organization paid off. On April 16, 2016, the reveal was staged. Executives, patrons, employees, and community members of the hospital stood spectator at the dragon wall to celebrate the grand opening. As the wall was unveiled and the great eye of the dragon lit up, only gasps and great applause could be heard at the Patient Tower terrace. “Our work was so well received,” beamed Rebecca. “It was so rewarding hearing the praises of the team at Chinese Hospital. Everyone was so pleased with our designs. It was so incredible watching their faces light up.”
How did it all come together? Mariana attributes this success to the client-focused mindset of everyone at Image Group. “Our number one goal is that we’re client-oriented. When that dragon eye lit up, it was completely indicative of what teamwork is capable of. It showed the great work we accomplished together.”