Montage Health Ohana Center

Architecture firm: NBBJ

Owner: Montage Health

Location: Monterey, Calif.

Category: Unbuilt: Must be commissioned for compensation by a client with the authority and intention to build.

Project site: Not previously developed

Building program type(s): Healthcare - Clinic

Montage Health Ohana Center seeks to upend the narrative that mental health care must be relegated to institutional settings that isolate rather than heal. Its unique and visionary program seeks to amplify positive outcomes for young people through connections with nature. When it opens in 2023 in Monterey, California, the center will offer a full spectrum of accessible behavioral health resources for the community, regardless of ability to pay for treatment.

As the number of people reporting behavioral health issues rises sharply, the U.S. mental health crisis is compounded by a lack of psychiatric beds and high-occupancy rates at mental health facilities. The Ohana Center is also critically important to California, where just 1,050 child psychiatrists serve a population of more than 9 million children and teens, and a majority of the state’s counties have no adolescent psychiatric beds.  

A potential prototype for similar facilities across the country, the center reveals a new model that incorporates brain science research curated by molecular biologist Dr. John Medina. The design team applied relevant findings to shape an environment that boosts health and wellness, emphasizing outdoor elements such as courtyards, gardens, and framed views of nature. Immersed in nature, the design for the center forms a series of outdoor cloisters and terraced spaces that provide calm and moments of restoration. Water will cascade through the coastal canyon site, lined with gardens growing immune-boosting plants such as lavender and rosemary.

“The jury liked the facility’s open-door policy for anyone to get care. We were also impressed by this project’s exceptional siting and how the team took advantage of the existing landscape, giving particular attention to patient views. The skillful use of cross-laminated timber was commendable since it is a less-common material in the U.S. health care sector.” - Jury comment

The center’s architecture is a series of softly curving one-story volumes, uniting an outpatient clinic, an intensive outpatient program, a 16-bed residential program, and other holistic spaces. The center’s form creates a welcoming embrace inside and out, fostering a sense of comfort reflective of its name, a Hawaiian term for extended family. In providing a sense of togetherness, the center will destigmatize mental health care and uplift adolescents and children at a critical moment in their lives.  

Driven by nature, the center opts for a light-touch building massing that works seamlessly with the sloping contours of the site and leaves many of the existing coastal oak trees in place. The mass timber structure avoids the embodied waste typical in concrete and steel construction. The center’s façade was designed with pre-fabricated modularity at the forefront to minimize the impact on the site. Glass along the façade maximizes daylight while strategically placed wood fins optimize thermal performance and add a level of privacy where needed.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: projected 2023

Gross conditioned floor area: 55,600 sq ft

Project team

Architecture: NBBJ

Engineer – MEP: Integral Group

Engineer – Structural: Fast + Epp

Engineer – Civil: Whitson Engineers

Landscape Architect: BFS Landscape Architects

General Contractor: South Bay Construction

Acoustics: Antonio Acoustics

Food Service: NG Associates

Life Safety Code: Jensen Hughes


Mara Baum, FAIA, (Chair), Dialog Architects, San Francisco

Ellen Bailey Dickson, FAIA, Bailey Edward, Chicago

Susan Chin, FAIA, DesignConnects, New York

Gary Hamilton, WSP, New York

Yen Ong, AIA, 5G Studio Collaborative, Dallas

Ellen Taylor, AIA, The Center for Health Design, New York

Image credits

rendering of courtyard


rendering of aerial view


main lobby


gym with fitness class


exterior view