The Health Park at WakeMed, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, provides critical rehabilitation care for patients in this metropolitan area. However, the facility faced issues such as inefficient internal circulation, lack of space for rehabilitation activities and equipment, and limited resources for helping patients “relearn” integral life skills. WakeMed's patient-centered approach to healthcare challenged the design team to create a facility with seamlessly integrated rehabilitation functions in an exciting and visually stimulating atmosphere.

The Health Park features a sunny, skylighted atrium in a “town center” environment. A small town streetscape incorporates familiar settings and everyday activities into therapy, thus integrating patients back into normal lives with confidence and self-esteem. Brick, stone, and cloth awnings frame the storefronts for the General Store, Coffee Shop, Bank, ATM, Exercise Area, Therapy Pool, and half-court Therapy Gym. The General Store offers patients the opportunity to practice shopping for groceries, clothing, or hardware. Patients in the large, indoor park are able to safely practice maneuvering over ramps, steps, various ground surfaces, carpet, and even a Japanese bridge. The soothing sound of running water comes from the nearby “pond.” The pond even has live goldfish, real lily pads, and a nearby rowboat mounted on springs. Patients mark their progress on the 280-foot walking track and time their sessions by the 15-foot tall “town clock” in the center of the atrium. Patients and their families can get a drink or snack in the Nourishment Gazebo and spend time together on the patio or in the outdoor sitting park. The children in the rehabilitation program practice climbing, swinging, or sliding in the Pediatric Playroom, which is complete with an enclosed outside play area.

The Rehab Hospital at WakeMed is now one of the most dynamic and unique facilities of its kind in the nation. Since completion of the project, the waiting list to enter the facility has grown from two days to three weeks. The Health Park at WakeMed is a fun place—a place with a serious mission of returning patients to their normal lives full of confidence and self-esteem, able to climb steps, cook dinner, use an ATM machine, and even load groceries in the trunk for the real ride home.

Project category: New construction & Remodel/Renovation (completed October 2001)

Chief administrator: William K. Atkinson II, PhD, President and CEO, (919) 350-8000

Firm: FreemanWhite, Inc., (704) 586-2327

Design team: Franklin H. Brooks, AIA, ACHA, Managing Principal; William Bethune, AIA, Designer

Photography: © Tim Buchman Photography

Total building area (sq. ft.): 43,290

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $228

Total cost (excluding land): $9,850,000