Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center

Architect:  SmithGroup

Owner:    Ben Ovando

Location: Downey, California

Category: Built- More than $25 million (construction cost)

Founded in the late 19th century, Rancho Los Amigos has long been a premier rehabilitation center for adult and pediatric patients recovering from life-altering spinal cord and brain injuries, strokes, and physical and developmental disorders. Owned and operated by Los Angeles County, the center offered world-class treatment that was dampened by its inefficient layout of outdated single-story buildings scattered across the 212-acre campus. This project has radically transformed the center, bringing it in line with the ideals of a holistic and human-centered rehabilitation process.  

"This project hits all of the bases, and the solution is energetic and uplifting." - Jury comment

The design team was charged with shaping both a master plan and design for the campus, with holistic recovery at its core. The new facility works as an indoor/outdoor recovery zone, smudging the lines between interior and exterior spaces so that rehabilitation can spill beyond the hospital walls, a significant benefit for patients who may be spending months or years in recovery. Expansive, dual-purpose outdoor rooms surrounded by healing gardens, terraces, and amphitheaters replace old concrete parking lots. The facility also includes a new wellness center, modernized hospitals, and a three-story outpatient center that has consolidated all ambulatory services under one roof for the first time.

“This project hits all of the bases, and the solution is energetic and uplifting,” noted a juror. “I can imagine how delightful it would be to receive rehab services in this facility and on this delightful, well-integrated campus. Much of the design success of the project is a result of how interwoven the spaces are with each other, the extensive natural light, and how successfully the lines are blurred between inside and outside.”

“I can imagine how delightful it would be to receive rehab services in this facility and on this delightful, well-integrated campus. Much of the design success of the project is a result of how interwoven the spaces are with each other, the extensive natural light, and how successfully the lines are blurred between inside and outside.” - Jury comment

The new and renovated structures are clustered around a central plaza that forms the campus’s heart. The center’s 107-foot-tall tower stands as an iconic wayfinding cue, harkening back to the site’s Mission Revival heritage while balancing modern textural elements. Many of the buildings are clad in a metal scrim, evoking memories of the expansive orange groves that once flourished on the site. Conceptually, the campus references weaving art therapies that became a hallmark of Rancho Los Amigos’ treatment more than a century ago. The facility’s looping pathways and elliptical plazas unite the project, while a ribbon of respite, boasting seating alcoves every 150 feet, winds its way throughout the campus.

For patients, the transformative design succeeds in gathering people together while offering spaces to connect, learn, and heal. Airy and light-filled interior therapy spaces open onto outdoor areas that focus on improving strength and coordination. Therapy can happen anywhere and everywhere, an intervention that has already yielded tangible results. Patients have experienced a 5.7% drop in their BMI and report significantly lower pain levels. In addition, they exhibit bolstered confidence in managing their health, engage in more physical activity, and access their support networks in greater numbers.

Additional information

Associate  Architect: Taylor Design        

Consultant: N/A        

Engineer - Civil: Psomas        

Engineer - MEP: TTG Corporation        

Engineer - Structural: TTG Corporation        

General Contractor: McCarthy Builders      

Landscape Architect: Katherine Spitz & Associates

Jury

Thomas J. Trenolone AIA, (Chair), HDR, Omaha, Nebraska

David Allison FAIA, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina

Betsy Beaman AIA, GOAT DESIGN, Atlanta, GA

Windom Kimsey, FAIA, TSK Architects, Henderson, Nevada

Noah Tolson, Array Architects, Philadelphia, PA

Norio Tsuchiya AIA, triARC architecture and design, Phoenix, AZ

Kirsten Waltz, AIA, Baystate Health, Glastonbury, Connecticut

Image credits

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center-230

John Edward Linden Photography

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center-231

John Edward Linden Photography

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center-232

John Edward Linden Photography

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center-233

John Edward Linden Photography

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center-234

John Edward Linden Photography