The 21,000-square-foot, 37-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Bristol Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital is part of a three-floor vertical expansion project. A design goal was to create a lighthearted environment with design references to the pediatric floors below while addressing the aesthetic needs of the NICU parent population. Design concepts were driven by the building geometry, utilizing “ripple in a pond” imagery and the circle as planning and design tools. The circle, used to delineate the individual patient areas, symbolizes the embrace of care given to these fragile new lives.

Several factors contributed to a design that balances staff desires with patient and family needs. A textured wall, linking two levels of patient care, is washed by a variable chromatic LED light source, creating a changing environment for the visiting parent. Acoustic and lighting requirements were paramount in the development of the ceiling design, organized, again, by the geometry of the circle. Cubicle curtains, etched glass, and rolling screens provide options for privacy.

Project category: Addition (completed March 2005)

Chief administrator: Stephen K. Jones, Senior Vice-President, Operations, (732) 937-8900

Firm: Granary Associates, (215) 665-7055

Design team: Collin L. Beers, AIA, Principal-in-Charge; Hollis A. Madara, AIA, RN, BSN, Planner; Paige Whitney Macfarlan, Planner, Senior Interior Designer; Amir Amin, AIA, Senior Project Architect; David C. Bogle, Project Manager

Photography: © Tom Crane

Total building area (sq. ft.): 21,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $310

Total construction cost (excluding land): $6,510,000

Family support spaces include several waiting, consulting, and education areas; an outdoor roof terrace; and a room where families can stay while transitioning to home. Finishes and fabrics used in the space were specified to be durable and sustainable. All of the aforementioned design constructs combine to symbolize the ever-changing technology of neonatology and family-centered care that are at the core of the NICU at Bristol Myers Squibb Children's Hospital.