The American University of Beirut Medical Center, Halim & Aida Daniel Academic & Clinical Center

I Look Up Architect Feature Series: Joan Saba

The Look Up Film Challenge has brought to life stories of architecture and impact from a wide array of perspectives. We would like to shed light on even more of these inspiring individuals making a positive impact on our cities, lives and communities. To highlight these architects and their unique visions, we have interviewed our six talented Look Up Film Challenge Judges with an expertise in architecture.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Joan Saba, lead of NBBJ’s healthcare design practice, the second-largest healthcare architecture firm in the world and named one of the most innovative by Fast Company. She brings more than 25 years of expertise and strategic vision to all types of healthcare projects, with a focus on academic medical centers, pediatric and teaching hospitals. She recently led the healthcare planning and design efforts on the Kimmel Pavilion at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and a medical center at the American University of Beirut. Her recent work on the Massachusetts General Hospital Lunder Building won numerous design and industry awards, including a National Healthcare Design Award from the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health.

Read about Joan’s thoughts on the Film Challenge, architecture, and her work in healthcare architecture.

Q: What inspires you about the Look Up Film Challenge?

I was excited to see a wide variety of points of view, creative approaches and messages about the built environment. At the same time, all were related in their honesty and accessibility.

Q: How do you see Look Up influencing perceptions of architects and architecture?

I would hope that the Film Challenge enables the public to view architecture through the unique interpretations presented by each architect. Each participant brought their own personal recipe to the challenge, and this has the potential to ignite great curiosity and interest.

Q: What was the most impactful project that you have worked on recently, and how did the experience alter the way you think about architecture?

In many of my recent projects, I’ve noticed a common thread about the importance of culture and history in the healthcare experience. At the American University of Beirut Medical Center, we’re currently working to join centuries of history and culture within a collaborative clinic and medical education building. Our project in Shanghai, the JiaHui International Hospital is integrating technology with the human experience to bring a completely new model of care to China, while respecting the cultural traditions that are already in place there. Even the reopening of the ED at NYU Langone Medical Center after Hurricane Sandy was personally gratifying, because it represented the recovery from an event that touched so many lives where I live.


The American University of Beirut Medical Center, Halim & Aida Daniel Academic & Clinical Center

The American University of Beirut Medical Center, Halim & Aida Daniel Academic & Clinical Center


Q: As a purveyor of healthcare architecture, can you describe the influence that architecture has on health?

Hospitals are where humanity’s most joyous and most difficult and sorrowful moments converge: the birth of a child, the passing of a loved one, the scheduled tune-ups and the near-misses that make life sharper and brighter on the other side. Hospitals are a place of refuge during disasters; they shelter, feed and stage during times of crisis; they house the most immune-comprised members of our society; and they function 24/7.

As healthcare architects, we have seen the impact that great design has on this shared experience. We can help patients heal faster with environments of inspiration. We can enable clinicians to surpass their previous achievements with environments for focus and collaboration. And we can back up our intuitions with evidence-based design and the latest findings in neuroscience to create high-performing, human-centered spaces.


Q: What is your main aspiration as Partner at NBBJ?

As a partner at NBBJ, it is my goal to inspire our range of creative talents to change the world through environments for healing, wellness and health.