Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
Treating patients with spinal cord and nervous system injuries is one of the most delicate specializations in the entire medical field. Before this project began, the exceptional treatment provided at Rancho was being severely hindered by an inefficient layout of outdated, single-story buildings spread over the large campus. To best serve patients in their recovery, the entire rehabilitation process must be holistic and human-centered: the existing Rancho Los Amigos campus was neither. SmithGroup, in collaboration with executive architect Taylor Design, developed a new master plan and transformative design of the campus with holistic recovery as the main priority.
From intervention to rest and recovery, then rehab, and finally, reintegration, every part of a patient’s journey and recovery process was studied to ensure the most efficient and dignified spaces for patient care.
The entire campus is now an indoor-outdoor recovery zone, taking advantage of the Southern California climate and extending rehabilitation far beyond the walls of the hospital for patients who may spend months or years in recovery. Expansive, dual-purpose outdoor rooms double as rehabilitation spaces, with healing gardens and terraces, large plazas, and amphitheaters where there used to be old buildings and concrete parking lots. The project also includes a new community wellness center, an expanded and modernized hospital, and a new, three-story outpatient center consolidating ambulatory services for the first time in one location.
Drawing inspiration from a historic Mission Revival building on the site, new and renovated structures are placed around a central plaza defining a new heart of the campus. Accentuating the now cohesive campus and providing a wayfinding cue, an iconic, 107-foot tower gestures to this history while bringing in modern textural elements. Buildings are clad in an undulating, perforated metal scrim reminiscent of the massive orange groves that once dominated the site.
Conceptually, SmithGroup’s design for the campus references the weaving art therapies that became synonymous with Rancho a century ago. A ribbon of respite is woven throughout the campus, with seating alcoves every 150 feet. The materiality of the exterior, the looping pathways of the gardens and finishes in the interior are all a subtle nod to this history.
Unique even among rehabilitation centers, Rancho's community transcends the typical label of 'patient,' creating a one-of-a-kind culture. Many former patients return to the campus as volunteers and employees, helping to support and mentor new patients who are learning to rebuild after a life-altering event.
Understanding this, SmithGroup has not only created a place for high-quality care but one that supports and gives back to Rancho’s inclusive community. The central elliptical plaza and buildings house an extensive public art collection. The beautifully landscaped plaza invites the neighborhood in, with ample space to hold community events, concerts, art exhibitions, and farm markets. The first project completed on the campus—the award-winning Don Knabe Wellness Center, comprising a fitness center, aquatic therapy, and advanced physical therapy and rehabilitation technologies—is open to former patients and local residents, as well as current patients.
The transformative design of the new campus provides Rancho Los Amigos with the facilities to innovate far beyond what they were capable of in their previous, outdated spaces. The new Rancho Los Amigos campus signals to patients, staff and the community a cutting-edge, destination center of wellness—providing the most advanced rehabilitative technology in a holistic, human-centered environment.