The historic Black Building at La Rabida Children's Hospital has been located on Chicago parkland for more than a century. The Lobby and Emergency Treatment renovation project draws attention to the building's point of entry, adds a whimsical and family-friendly tone to the sense of arrival, and supports emergency care.

An exterior trellis was added to the porch at the hospital's main entrance to draw attention to this key point of entry, which was previously difficult to find. A decorative handrail system integrates with the trellis, showcasing La Rabida's whimsical personality while complementing its historic Mediterranean architecture. A signature tile mural from the former lobby fireplace was preserved and placed above the existing stone entryway, maintaining a connection to the past.

Project category: Remodel/Renovation (completed April 2005)

Chief administrator: Brenda Wolf, Vice-President of Planning and External Affairs, (773) 753-8631

Firm: VOA Associates Incorporated, (312) 453-7571

Design team: Percy E. (“Rebel”) Roberts III, AIA, Principal-in-Charge; Brenda Bush-Moline, AIA, Project Director; Kapil Khanna, Project Architect (VOA Associates Incorporated); Kay Lee, Finishes and Furnishings Designer (Eva Maddox Branded Designs); Vytenis Milunas, Project Manager (Environmental Systems Design, Inc.)

Photography: Michael David Rose Photography

Total building area (sq. ft.): 9,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $167

Total construction cost (excluding land): $1,500,000

The lobby concept of “safe harbor” is in harmony with the nautical theme of this lakefront facility. An undulating floor pattern of tranquil blue colors suggests waves. The reception desk, play area, and furnishings are designed to “float” on the “water.” The ceiling incorporates star-shaped lights to produce a celestial effect. Waterwalls are recessed in the lobby walls, adding movement and a restful focal point.

The Emergency Treatment Department was updated with new technology, including flat-screen TVs installed on swing arms over each bed to maximize space and offer patients an opportunity for pleasant diversion. A key design challenge was keeping the existing Emergency Treatment Department fully operational throughout the renovation.

This renovation project effectively “right-sized” these spaces, allowing families to be an integral part of their child's care in an uplifting setting.