David L. Ginsberg, FAIA, changed the way healthcare facilities are designed. His groundbreaking body of work, which includes New York’s Presbyterian Hospital where he later established and led the 10-year Modernization Program, introduced concepts such as using service trends and demographics to inform planning decisions as well as creating networks of outpatient clinics to supplement care.
Dave, as he was known, was born in 1932 in The Bronx, New York, and raised in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood. After graduating from Cornell University’s Bachelor of Architecture program in 1955, he joined Perkins+Will in its White Plains, New York office.
Dave’s first projects were education-related, including the Heathcote School in nearby Scarsdale, a light-filled building that drew upon the Prairie and International styles. He began working with E. Todd Wheeler, who developed the firm’s healthcare practice, on facilities such as the Wheeler Building at Connecticut’s Stamford Hospital and the master plan for the Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.
When Wheeler retired in 1971, Dave became the healthcare leader of the New York office. Within four years, he was promoted to national healthcare leader and relocated to Chicago.
In 1977, Perkins+Will received a commission that would change Dave’s life. Presbyterian Hospital, in Dave’s old Washington Heights neighborhood, was cited by the New York State Department of Health for code violations. Dave led the effort to create a master plan to correct those violations, using social, demographic, and financial information about the facility’s use to arrive at solutions. Informed by that research, the effort morphed into a long-term strategy, the Modernization Program, which outlined a path to eventually replace the majority of the inpatient facilities, construct a new community healthcare center, and create a network of outpatient clinics throughout the area.
The plan’s potential was so striking that in 1980, Dr. Felix Demartini, then-president of Presbyterian Hospital, asked Dave to join the hospital as an executive vice president in charge of executing the vision. He accepted, returned to New York, and established the facility’s first Office of Planning. Taking the Modernization Program into its next phase, he hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to serve as design architect for the buildings and renovations called for in Perkins+Will’s master plan. Dave saw the program through to its completion, working on it and numerous other strategic initiatives before leaving Presbyterian Hospital in 1990.
But no grass grew under his feet. His former Perkins+Will colleague Bob Larsen immediately drafted him to join a healthcare specialty firm with architect Joe Shein. Larsen Shein Ginsberg (LSG) eventually grew to an office of 75 people.
In 2005, LSG merged with Perkins Eastman, adding to the latter’s already large healthcare practice. Dave continued to develop projects for Perkins Eastman though to his retirement in 2013. Highlights include leading the master plan for the merged Kingston and Benedictine Hospital in Kingston, New York, where he consolidated the institutions’ offerings into a single site. He also developed a program and conceptual designs for Southampton Hospital in Long Island, New York.
With his passing, Dave leaves behind the undying loyalty of his clients and a cadre of protégés who, through working alongside him or attending his planning and strategy classes at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, adopted his visionary approach to design. We will miss him.
Dave’s wisdom and generosity of spirit is summed up by Brad Perkins, founder of Perkins Eastman: “When I joined Perkins+Will in mid-1977, Dave went out of his way to help me prepare for my new job. He taught me many of the health-planning skills I now have, [including] the power of metrics. He was a mentor and giant in the profession. I feel lucky to have known and worked with him.”