On opposite sides of the globe, two pediatric health institutions, Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and New Century International Children’s Hospital (NCICH) in Beijing, each decided to venture into uncharted territory by offering healthcare services to a whole new segment of the population. In Houston, the departure of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital from the maternity care market led neighboring Texas Children’s Hospital to a critical juncture: to accept a larger geographic gulf between critical newborns and their neonatal intensive care unit or expand into maternity care, a service line they had never before offered.

In Beijing, JH Lanecare, one of the most prolific hospital networks in China, has provided pediatric patients international-quality, private-pay healthcare at its five-year-old NCICH campus, with protocols and facilities reflecting a drastic departure from traditional Chinese government-run hospitals. As the next step in a multipronged plan of expansion, system leadership eyed a unique opportunity in a rapidly growing neighborhood on the city’s edge.

In an inviting park, complete with a four-acre pond, they discovered two unfinished buildings originally intended for retail. They saw two jewels through which they could expand their model of healthcare, but this time for both children and expectant mothers.


A “new century” of healthcare in China

To meet the needs and preferences of a rapidly growing middle-class in urban Beijing, along with a large community of expatriates from around the world, JH Lanecare established NCICH in 2002 to offer unmatched service and amenities, along with quick access to preferred physicians for private-pay consumers. At its initial campus, the family-centered care model was branded by specific experiences programmed throughout the facility—from greeting and guiding at the front reception desk to attentive, personalized well-baby and pediatric acute care.

This strategy would be extended to mothers-to-be in the new hospital to create an atmosphere in which childbirth would be the experience of a lifetime. And this was especially pertinent in light of the context. With China’s “one child” policy, the birth of an infant is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. Because of this, couples plan for their child’s birth far in advance.

Culturally significant dates, valued for the good luck they imbue upon the newborn, result in a high number of scheduled c-sections. The importance of child birth elicits extensive involvement by grandparents on both sides. Length of stay is dramatically longer, as the new mom enjoys several days of post-natal care. All of these cultural concerns were incorporated into planning for every step of the patient journey and every facet of that experience.

Working with a client in China was uncharted territory for FKP Architects, but that was, in fact, what Beijing New Century International Women’s and Children’s Hospital wanted—to bring international healthcare design innovation and patient journey sensibilities to its facilities. FKP designers studied the traditional Chinese approach to understand what aspects within the new facility would seem alien, to decipher what it would take to bridge the gap for the caregivers, patients, and family as they stepped into a new model of care.

For example, the traditional approach to birthing in existing Chinese maternity wards reflects a dated labor/delivery/recovery (LDR) arrangement—moving the patient sequentially through a series of sterile, institutional environments. The provision of LDR suites in the new facility was planned to reduce patient transport as a matter of patient safety and comfort, and was a welcomed improvement by the hospital’s staff. However, certain treasured aspects of traditional Chinese medicine were retained, such as the outpatient pharmacy stocked with Chinese medicines.

When the design team found itself confronted with two buildings originally designed for retail, it discovered functional hurdles and hidden advantages. The low-rise structures provided an intimate scale more along the lines of pavilions in the park. The approach was clear: spa-like surroundings—soothing natural materials, maximization of daylight, and the tranquility of waterscape—all taking a cue from the verdant setting.

What developed was JH Lanecare’s showpiece, the 112,000-square-foot Lakeview Park campus. Two shimmering pavilions with a skin of canted vertical mullions that resemble a forest of bamboo, integrated with glass that reflects the greenery, sky, and water. A focal point was created for each building—entry forms referred to affectionately as “the lanterns.” A basket weave of vertical mullions with integrated LED lighting emit a soft green glow at night, bounded by a stepped canopy drawing inspiration from the traditional fans used for centuries in China. These forms draw the eye to the building entries and provide an inviting welcome.

Inside, sophisticated color palettes, delicate patterns, and spatial configurations all borrow from nature and the rich history of a venerable culture, offering the advanced model of care delivered by Western counterparts.

Beijing New Century International Women’s and Children’s Hospital Lakeview Park is scheduled to open in late fall 2011.


Texas Children’s Hospital brings care full-circle

Already world-renowned for groundbreaking pediatric care and research, Texas Children’s Hospital had long envisioned the concept of a multidisciplinary center focused on the evaluation and treatment of both mother and baby. In recent years, the stars began to align for this vision to become a reality. Diagnostic and therapeutic advances combined with the opportunity to fill the void left by a former partnering institution as it ceased maternity care spurred Texas Children’s to move forward with its vision. 

With an anticipated volume of 5,000 births per year, the new 790,000-square-foot Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women will provide a full continuum of family-centered care to women, mothers, and their babies, beginning before conception, continuing after birth, and through all the years of a woman’s life. A response to the rise in high-risk pregnancies, the new facility’s multidisciplinary approach adds obstetrical and gynecological care to the hospital’s fetal and newborn centers, providing access to the most advanced technologies and treatments to address problems at their earliest stages.

Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women will be the first to offer true family-centered maternity care in the Texas Medical Center. This new kind of obstetrical care involves both the mother and the family in decision-making during labor, delivery, and postpartum care. The mother and her baby are cared for together by one nurse in a nurturing environment that promotes bonding from the first moments of life. Every detail of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women is designed to support this new model of care.

Extensive research included conducting focus groups, benchmarking other maternity facilities, and building detailed interior mock-ups so that caregivers, women, and families could test and provide feedback on functionality and aesthetics. The focus group emphasized the importance of the way the building felt and the experience of this highly emotional family event. This special sensibility is embodied in the building’s “femininity”—graceful curves and the delicacy of a highly detailed interior.

The facility was sited to make the most of the dense urban location while its canted configur
ation improves vistas and creates ceremonial entrances. Built atop four levels of parking, the two buildings—a 15-story “slender mother” and six-story “plump baby”—share a two-level, daylit promenade in the building base. A light-filled vertical glass tower serves as the northwest entry beacon.

Inside, abundant natural light and a soothing color palette heavy on greens set the tone. Applying “the Disney World model,” medical equipment is kept out of sight as much as possible. Patient room bathrooms are spacious with ample counter space and storage. Extra-long sofa beds were selected for new fathers’ comfort.

In addition to tranquil accommodations, other stress-reducing conveniences were incorporated. Scheduled and emergency c-sections are separated into two different operating room suites to keep scheduled cases from being bumped by emergency deliveries. Each patient room in the all-private level II and III neonatal intensive care unit is fully enclosed with private sleeping accommodations for parents. In the event that patients must be transported to Texas Children’s Hospital West Tower for additional specialized care, a two-level circular sky bridge connects the Pavilion for Women with the campus’s other major buildings. The signature bridge’s Vierendeel truss structure provides unobstructed vistas and safe, private, and comfortable passage for patients and staff on its upper level and general pedestrian passage on its lower level.

The patient journey concludes with a special discharge area separate from the main lobby and drive. This “launch zone” provides a more organized and ceremonial departure for the new family with a quiet, comfortable place to wait as their car is brought to them and loaded with their belongings.

Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women’s outpatient facilities are scheduled to open in late 2011 with inpatient care following in early 2012.


Family-centered care is a universal language

Birth, and the family engagement surrounding it, is a milestone experience that unites all. Two institutions on two different continents, with two distinctly different facilities and cultures, are connected in the significance and thoughtfulness of creating a once-in-a-lifetime family birthing experience. Both offering a ceremonial and hospitality-like environment, Beijing New Century International Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women support and enhance the quality of this family-centered celebration, incorporating respective cultural traditions and making it their own, while sharing the fundamental commonalities that make the experience comfortable, joyful, and familiar no matter what language you speak. HCD