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Vol. LVII, No. 10
May 20, 2005

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Opening in June
Safra Lodge Stirs Passionate Commitment

It's rare for professionals involved in a construction project to speak of passion, but that is the word everyone involved with the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge uses when they talk about the building. Jan Weymouth, executive director of the lodge, says the entire group had the same "passionate goal to get this built. We all knew this was a very special place."

The Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge opens on June 1, and will be officially dedicated during a ceremony on Thursday, May 26.

The 26,500-square-foot, 34-room building that opens June 1 was conceived to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of adult Clinical Center patients and their families. Converting the concept into a comfortable home-away-from-home presented a number of challenges for the project team. Project Officer Shah Saleh of the Office of Research Facilities was assigned in 1999 to manage design and construction. The lodge had to meet an array of safety, security and environmental requirements, coordinate its schedule with the CRC opening, and be easy and cost-effective to maintain and operate.

Safra Lodge Opens for Tours

The Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge at NIH, conceived as a house of refuge for loved ones of patients receiving care at the Clinical Center, will open on June 1.

NIH'ers who would like a tour of the new lodge and its gardens may visit Tuesday, May 31, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The lodge is located a short walk west of the CRC. "The May 31 tour is the only chance for the general NIH public to see the lodge," said Jan Weymouth, executive director. "Once it is open for guests, general tours will not be available, to protect the privacy and safety of registered guests."

Dedication and opening ceremonies will take place May 26. Because of space limitations, attendance is by invitation only.

Construction on the lodge began in 2003. A $4.5 million donation to NIH from the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation allowed building to begin, along with the design and creation of a garden. Other contributors include the Merck Co. Foundation, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and many more corporations, foundations and individuals.

For more information on the lodge, call (301) 496-6500 or email


The challenges began with design. The lodge needed not only to create a sense of warm hospitality, but also needed to fit into the more institutional look of most campus buildings. It needed to allow patients plenty of privacy, but give them places where they could choose to socialize. Early members of the project group saw presentations by eight architectural firms before selecting a collaborative proposal from LSY Architects and Weinstein Associates. They envisioned the lodge as more of a large home than an apartment building.

"We all worked together as a team, and as a result, everyone involved is happy with the final product," says Saleh. "We all have reason to be very proud of our work."

The project teams met regularly to resolve challenges that arose in the course of construction, including heavy rains that saturated the worksite, scheduling conflicts with neighboring construction projects, and a change to custom designs for all interior and exterior light fixtures 3 months into the construction process, which required re-evaluation of the electrical system. Construction of a tunnel to bring campus utilities to the project site was another challenge. Through close cooperation of partnering group members and Dan Moses in the Utilities Operations Branch, ORF, the tunnel extension brought utilities to the lodge within days of the building being ready to accept them, without interrupting power to existing buildings, and without interference in nearby projects such as the CRC and the perimeter fence.

"There was an emotional commitment to this project, beyond the feeling of another day at NIH," says Weymouth.

To complete the transformation of the lodge into a home, interior designers had to attend to far more detail in the furnishings than is typical in an NIH office or lab building. Many of the furnishings were custom produced by multiple vendors. Inez Austin, the lodge decorator, said, "This is the most positive effort I've been involved with. The personal attachment everyone formed for the project caused them all to work well beyond what was technically required."

Creation of a "healing garden" at the lodge is a separate project endowed by the Safra family and is scheduled for completion in the spring.

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