The fact that the new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is the tallest children’s hospital in the world is no accident; it’s a necessity. Located on the tightest of urban sites—1.8 acres on the campus of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, just north of Chicago’s downtown business hub—the 23-story, 1,255,000-square-foot facility integrates inpatient and ambulatory care, diagnostic and treatment areas, and clinical support with creative space solutions that seem tailor-made for the site’s limitations.
The project has replaced and nearly doubled the size of the former Children’s Memorial Hospital, a nationally recognized leader in pediatric care that’s been an icon in the Chicago community for more than 125 years.
The building’s footprint makes up roughly 90% of the site’s 1.8 acres. This limited urban site required creative design solutions, achieved by a trio of architecture firms: ZGF Architects LLP, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, and Anderson Mikos Architects Ltd.
“The form of the building was interpreted as a composition of giant ‘building blocks,’ with vertical and horizontal bands of glass in effect the ‘mortar’ holding these blocks together,” explains Martin Wolf, FAIA, principal at Solomon Cordwell Buenz. “In some cases, the mortar becomes free flowing and sinuous, to further respond to the special functions at the sky lobby levels or the multilevel lobbies at the ground floor.”
Up to the ED
The final design includes a second-floor emergency department (ED); diagnostic and outpatient clinics on the third and fourth floors; and radiology, operating rooms, psychiatry, and support services on the remaining lower levels of the building. While the location of the 45-bed Kenneth and Anne Griffin Emergency Care Center on the second floor may raise some eyebrows, its positioning has actually led to many advantages.
“We had to jump through some hoops to prove to the state that it would be safe. It’s one of the first second-floor EDs without a ramp up for the ambulance,” says Hugh Campbell, principal of ZGF Architects. “It also protects the ED from any community disasters or similar situations, because all of that activity would be on the ground floor.” In addition, the second-floor location adds an extra level of security because it helps to cut down on foot traffic from the street level, which is important in any ED. “It’s worked out very, very well,” says Bruce Komiske, chief of new hospital design and construction at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Patients arriving by ambulance are transported up via dedicated emergency elevators, while those arriving from the parking structure can enter via bridge directly to the check-in desk and triage.
“We conducted time and motion studies and were able to show that it was actually faster to take the patients up in the dedicated elevators than it would be to have an ambulance drive up a ramp and turn around,” says ZGF’s Sue Ann Barton, principal. “We also found that around 70% of ED patients arrive via the garage, so being able to connect to the garage was important.”
The family that stays together
The upper floors are home to inpatient services, divided by two levels of public and family support spaces on the 11th and 12th floors—including the noteworthy Crown Sky Garden on the 11th floor, an interactive indoor garden, highlighted by a bamboo grove framed by a multicolored light wall that changes color in response to motion.
A transparent overlook deck called the Tree House can be found on the 12th floor, allowing patients, families, and visitors to view the garden from above, and making for a spectacular view.