Improving Learning Facilities with Opening Glass Walls: The Mount Sinai Surgical Center

learning facilities opening glass walls

In the heart of New York City, the Mount Sinai Surgical Simulation Center stands as a beacon of innovation and excellence in healthcare learning facilities and medical training. Recognized for Best Interiors/Office Design in the 2023 NanaAwards, this project exemplifies the potential of adaptive reuse with innovative solutions like opening glass walls and transforming an old gymnasium into a state-of-the-art facility for surgical education. Previously, the center was characterized by small, confined offices and training spaces, walled off from each other and disconnected. The transformation has turned these individual spaces into an open, light-filled, collaborative environment that fosters flexibility and adaptability. Designed by GKG Architecture, the center leverages the flexibility and transparency of the NanaWall folding glass wall system, creating an atmosphere that meets the dynamic and evolving needs of modern medical training. "We wanted our training spaces to be adaptive, and NanaWall was the key to achieving this versatility," said Max Moses Associate Principal, GKG.

opening glass walls in Mount Sinai learing facility

Meeting the Needs of Space Efficiency

The architects faced the challenge of converting a compact, high-ceilinged space into a versatile training ground for surgeons. The original separated and confined layout required a solution that could accommodate varying group sizes and equipment while ensuring sound isolation. GKG transformed the facility into an open, light-filled, collaborative, flexible, and adaptable environment. Multiple folding glass wall systems connect the open layout, and the interior system provides sound control and a seamless partition between spaces, eliminating the need for seated monitor observation. The flexible training rooms can now be easily and quickly reconfigured on demand and meet the evolving needs of modern training and education. They can now accommodate a wide range of training scenarios, from large group sessions to small, focused workshops, without sacrificing acoustic performance. "NanaWall actually made the project what it is...converting tiny Matchbox spaces into spectacular open spaces," explains George K. George, Principal, GKG Architecture.

opening glass wall systems in training facility

The Future of Adaptable Training Environments

The facility features one fully equipped mock operating room, two flexible training rooms, state-of-the-art conference space, a control booth, and storage space for simulation equipment. This adaptability is crucial in a training environment, "It allowed us to have this open plan while compartmentalizing at the same time for adaptability," said Max Moses. In training facilities, visual sightline clarity is paramount. Previously, the control room and training spaces were small, separate, and disjointed. With the new layout, opening glass walls, and convenient swing doors, the control room has full visibility and control over the entire training facility. This connection between spaces enables visual monitoring and control of training sessions, ensuring real-time adjustments to lighting, computers, displays, and equipment, in an enhanced environment. The design also allows for the simultaneous sharing of information and synchronized communication. With futureproofing of the space in mind, every single object in the room is on wheels. From the opening glass walls to medical equipment and conference room furniture, all allow for quick reconfiguration including the simulation room, and adjoining spaces. "Good news to report as we are actually expanding. The NanaWall product success in our project has encouraged further expansion," said George. 

learning facility remodel with opening glass walls

Creating Acoustic Control with Visual Access

Controlling sound was a significant concern in a space dominated by hard surfaces and high ceilings. The architects employed acoustic ceiling tiles to absorb sound, ensuring that the bustling activity within the simulation center did not overwhelm. This design choice, combined with the sound-insulating properties of the SL70 glass wall systems, created an acoustically balanced space conducive to collaboration and learning facilities. The acoustic treatments in the ceiling, with offset angles and triangular panels, help with sound resonance dissipation, similar to a speaker cabinet design. Despite the polished concrete floors, incorporating NanaWall opening glass walls enabled total acoustical privacy and sound control, making it an ideal training environment. "The NanaWall systems provide the flexibility required to facilitate fluctuating group sizes, all while maintaining a high level of sound isolation," architect George stated. Designed for acoustic performance and visual clarity, NanaWall systems offer sound control up to STC 45, providing uninterrupted visibility while insulating against unwanted noise. The design ensures that even with the reflective hard surfaces, the learning facilites are acoustically controlled allowing for clear communication and the focused learning required in modern medical training.

learning facilities redesign with NanaWall opening glass walls

Maximizing Light for Learning Facilities

Natural light plays a crucial role in the design and enhancing healthcare learning facilities. The updated floor plan pairs deep-set cabinets with ample natural light that naturally floods through the NanaWall opening glass systems and windows. Even when closed, opening glass walls increase natural daylight and visibility within spaces. "Using NanaWall allowed for more flexibility on the floor, visually linking spaces together through transparent walls," states Moses. The facility's west-facing orientation takes full advantage of afternoon light, which streams through to fill the facility. The architects incorporated deep maple wood cabinetry around the windows, enhancing the aesthetic while creating more essential storage space. The depth of the windows maximizes space and allows for a semi-pocket design where glass panels can stack completely out of the way. The large windows that face the south ensure that even in winter, the space benefits from natural light. The conference room, though featuring smaller windows, also benefits from this design, bringing natural light into every corner of the space. 

Mount Sinai learning facilities with opening glass wall

Custom Design Options to Match the Vision 

The architects had full creative leeway in selecting materials and colors, ensuring that the design aligned perfectly with their vision. Their custom design, materials, and privacy choices, all enhanced the space renovation dramatically to create an environment that is as functional as it is inspiring. "NanaWall's design flexibility allowed us to have full creative leeway in selecting materials and colors, complementing our vision perfectly," George notes. The architects had a plethora of options to choose from with over 50 Standard Colors with 200 additional powder coats, privacy options, and various frame materials available.  

surgical learning facility with NanaWall glass wall systems

Final Thoughts

Mount Sinai Surgical Simulation Center symbolizes innovation, adaptability, and excellence in healthcare design and learning facilities. By converting an old gymnasium into a state-of-the-art education center, the architects at GKG Architecture have demonstrated how thoughtful design can revolutionize learning facilities and commercial spaces. The updated design now meets the evolving needs of modern medical training. By incorporating NanaWall opening glass wall systems into the renovation, the center has been transformed into an open, light-filled, and collaborative environment that fosters adaptability. A shining example of how innovative design solutions and adaptive reuse can revolutionize training environments for the next generation of medical professionals. 

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