Doane: We designed a pathway from the hospital to the tree, which then circles the tree, as does an 18-inch high stone wall where people can sit. As a backdrop to this there is a large lake and several healing gardens on the property. What's really interesting is that there are still horses nearby, just like in previous years, and David Biggerstaff wants to bring them back for a sort of pet therapy, under safe conditions with parents accompanying the kids.
Mabe: That's probably the most wonderful thing about the site-it was a working pasture for years. When we were out there working on our plans, horses would come up to us to pick our pockets for carrots and apples and the like. The site provides such a great variety of features: the Story Tree, pathways, gardens, as well as the lake and creek. Not many children's hospitals offer that sort of respite setting for parents or patients.
Biggerstaff: In keeping with our goal of bringing nature in, we went with a “finger” design for the patient towers. They're U-shaped extensions into the property so that there is natural light and a view of the site for every patient room. Offering all-private rooms was not a challenge for us nor even a matter of debate-it's the direction design is going now. We are committed to the family experience and wanting them to feel comfortable here. The rooms have refrigerators, fold-out couches, hidden medical gases in the headwall cabinetry, and a computer that swivels out of a fold-up cabinet just inside the room so that the clinician can work on the computer while still facing and talking with the child and parents.
Doane: We designed the patient room from the inside out, with same-handed concepts and mock-ups of staff work areas to get those right. We have inboard toilets and large bay windows, with the angle and distance to the patient bed carefully calculated to maximize the view.
Mabe: This is all possible because, as David said, we designed the patient towers in the form of a U, with 12-bed pods folding back on themselves, rather than the alternative of providing wrap-around exterior windows around a core or arranged in a straight line or L-shape. Nesting between the fingers are family rooms and child life areas serving those bed pods. It's a very unusual plan and there's been a lot of interest from people, including [Professor of Architecture and Research Fellow at Texas A&M University] Dr. Roger Ulrich wanting to study how this works administratively and from a healthcare standpoint.
Biggerstaff: Near the entrance to the patient towers we have great rooms for families, where they have flat-screen TVs and laptop connections. These are situated next to play rooms for kids, with toys, games, computers, as well as a child life specialist to interact with the kids using patient education and therapy approaches. These are nested adjacent to patient rooms for easy access, and they're wide open-kids can take laptops and video game consoles into their rooms and bring them back when done. At the end of the units there are lounges for families, with an area for coffee and food.