Why Does an Academic Medical Center Need a Chief Design Officer?

New position aligns architectural design with patient experience


Academic medical centers are primarily in the business of providing top-level medical care. But part of delivering that care is doing so in an aesthetically pleasing and comforting fashion.


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That is why Cleveland Clinic recently appointed Christopher Connell – a partner at the London architectural firm Foster + Partners – as its Chief Design Officer.

What a chief design officer will bring to Cleveland Clinic

In this newly created role, Connell will be responsible for the creation, strategic alignment and execution of architecture and other design initiatives to create serene, restorative environments consistent with Cleveland Clinic.


“Architecture and design can truly help comfort patients and their families during a difficult time at the hospital. Natural light, noise-dampening features, green spaces, accommodations and other environmental features go a long way toward enhancing the patient experience,” explains Toby Cosgrove, MD, former CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic. “Chris brings a wealth of experience and insight to this new role that will leave a lasting impression on all who come to Cleveland Clinic.”

A key player in the Cleveland Clinic Master Plan

As a partner at Foster + Partners, Connell was involved in the creation of the Cleveland Clinic Master Plan, which was designed to provide a welcoming campus-like environment for patients and serve as a road map for future campus development. Connell has also been involved in the design of Cleveland Clinic’s Health Education Campus, which will include a 27,000-square-foot atrium and four stories of leading-edge learning spaces that encourage interaction among the medical, dental, nursing and allied health students enrolled there.

Prior to beginning his career at Fosters + Partners in 1988, Connell graduated from Glasgow School of Art and the University of Glasgow in Scotland, United Kingdom. In his time at Foster + Partners, Connell has worked on more than 100 projects around the world, with his completed buildings receiving more than 40 awards. His involvement has ranged from architecture, industrial and interior design to infrastructure and master-planning.


“Cleveland Clinic’s consideration of every aspect of wellbeing makes it a very special environment, and its thoughtful integration of architecture and design is a key aspect of that,” said Connell. “I look forward to supporting the organization in evolving its culture, to utilize design thinking as a means to develop solutions that create unique patient experiences that reflect the needs of patients and the future of healthcare.”

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