River People Health Center
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, comprising two Native American tribes of the desert Southwest, identified a need to expand and upgrade its community health clinic. As planning got underway, the Indian Health Service expressed a desire to fund a larger regional health facility to serve Salt River's community members and all Native Americans throughout the greater northeast Phoenix area.
Championing a holistic approach to health and wellness, the three-story River People Health Center provides primary care along with an array of needed specialties identified by the Community. The first floor houses women’s and pediatric care, a wellness department, access to an outdoor wellness path, a rehabilitative terrain park, and a demonstration kitchen and food garden. Specialty care services on the second level include a large dental department with 35 service bays, optometry, audiology, podiatry, and behavioral health. Outpatient imaging, a lab and a drive-through pharmacy support the clinics.
The team worked with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa cultural committee to weave references to sacred landforms and tribal traditions into the building design and surrounding landscape. Entrances and interior views are aligned toward revered mountain peaks. As part of the behavioral health program, an elevated patio provides views to the mountains and is organized around a Talking Circle, a custom that fosters openness and equality in communication.
Several water elements speak to the deep connection with the Salt River and the ancient canals tribal ancestors built throughout the valley. The deck of the entry plaza symbolizes the changing watercourse of the Salt River, and rain chains collect rainwater that flows over symbol-embossed walls and into waterways that nurture native plantings.
Energy modeling during the design phase informed building orientation and shading features to reduce solar gain. The site is equipped with a 714-kilowatt photovoltaic panel array that also doubles as shaded parking. Careful material selection, dimmable LED lighting and other features put the project on track for LEED Silver certification.