Designing a world-class children's hospital by engaging a world-class city

March 1, 2011
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Chicago's Shedd Aquarium donated to the hospital a 30-foot sculpture of a humpback whale and her calf that it needed to relocate Designing a world-class children's hospital by engaging a world-class city Designing a world-class children's hospital by engaging a world-class city Pierce Manufacturing donated a fire truck to Children's Memorial. Community Partner Charrette Spring 2008
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Children's Memorial Hospital, founded in 1882, reached a historic decision to leave its current campus in Lincoln Park, Illinois, and build an entirely new facility three and a half miles away in the heart of the Northwestern Medical Campus in downtown Chicago. The new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, a 1.25-million-square-foot facility, will be the tallest children's hospital in the world, standing 23 stories high on a tiny footprint of 1.8 acres. It is scheduled to open in June 2012.

Thanks to the hospital's location on the medical center campus, right off Chicago's Magnificent Mile in the heart of the city's tourist and shopping district, there was no shortage of individuals and organizations that provided input to the design team of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca LLP, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, and Anderson Mikos Architects as to the exterior design of this iconic building. As planning started on the interior design, members of the project team began thinking about an overall theme. They took their cue from Daniel Burnham, creator of the city's 100-year-old master plan that is still helping to shape Chicago: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood.”

The project team created an overall theme of “What makes Chicago special?” and engaged more than 20 of the city's cultural icons, including Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Adler Planetarium, to name a few. The CEO of each “community partner” was contacted and asked if he/she would lend Children's Memorial two members from the organization's creative team. Together with the project team, they worked to brainstorm ideas that would transform the hospital into a very unique healing environment.

This culminated in an all-day charrette held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, across the street from the new Lurie Children's Hospital site. More than 125 staff, project team members, architects, and representatives from each of the community partners spent the entire day coming up with creative ideas for almost all the public spaces throughout the new facility.

A week after the charrette, Shedd Aquarium contacted the hospital and asked if it would be interested in a donation of a 30-foot sculpture of a humpback whale and her calf that it needed to relocate. It took only a few minutes for the Children's Memorial team to realize that this donation could launch a nautical theme for the lower lobby of the new hospital. The only problem was that the aquarium needed to move the whale immediately, but the hospital didn't need it for two years. The Field Museum stepped in and offered to store it in its vault with dinosaur bones and other priceless pieces of its collection.

With a nautical theme confirmed by the whale donation, the next component of the lobby was inspired by the Chicago History Museum, which provided pictures of the original Captain George Streeter's boat marooned on the location of the hospital-an event that occurred more than 100 years ago and led to the naming of that part of Chicago as Streeterville. Instead of a typical coffee/snack bar planned for the lobby, Au Bon Pain (the vendor selected to operate the coffee bar) worked with the design team to recreate Captain Streeter's boat. The Shedd Aquarium's team continued on with the creation of a 2,000-gallon “coral garden” aquarium for the second-floor emergency department.

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