When a renowned children's hospital seeks to expand its market, it shouldn't be surprising when it does so in spectacular fashion. The Seattle-based Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center was already well established in the Seattle/Puget Sound area but wished to expand its outreach throughout Washington State and into Idaho, Montana, and even Alaska. Having adopted, years ago, interior design themes that would attract and amuse children—floors depicting wetlands, beach areas, and the African savannah, for example—hospital planners wanted to potentiate this through the use of modern technology. In building a five-story, 100-bed addition in a woodland area bordering an upscale residential area, they also wanted to remain environmentally conscious “good neighbors.” The architectural firm HKS, Inc., based in Dallas, accepted both of these challenges. In the text blocks that follow, HKS Principal Designer Jeff Stouffer, AIA, offers a guided tour of the result.

“This hospital has a close relationship with the adjacent residential neighborhood. On a quarterly basis throughout planning and construction, the owner, designer, and construction team met with and reported to a committee representing the neighborhood. As a result, the front façade of the structure has been serrated and the structure's overall height has been controlled, so as not to block residents' views of nearby Lake Washington. Also, the scale of the building has been broken down into three separate, smaller modules to better interact with the scale of the neighborhood.

“We also wanted to integrate the building into the landscape, especially since this woodland area has long been on the city's botanical tour. We saved and/or relocated many plants, bringing them in, on, and over the building with a third-story roof garden and trellises that are clearly visible. We then added the stylized animals to provide a touch of whimsy for kids—giraffes peering over the entrance, a peacock hiding in the shrubs, elephants in the main lobby, and a pink hippo reclining near a fountain, for example. There is also a nearby ‘train’ topiary designed by the head of the hospital's groundskeeping crew.”

“We wanted to expand on the hospital's existing themes—the African savannah, the beach, and so forth—not only to attract and involve children, but also to create more powerful wayfinding throughout the hospital. The animal sculptures and pictures help with wayfinding, particularly near the elevator banks. As children and families get off the elevator, they'll see giraffes or whales or balloons. We hired artists to create animal sculptures and paintings to carry out the individual themes on floors 2, 3, and 4. The hospital stipulated that all the artwork had to be done on canvas, wood, or acrylic so as to be easily removable without damage to the walls (a request that the hospital came to from hard experience).

“We also have tried to make the interior more accommodating for staff and patients' families—for example, decentralized nursing stations are located adjacent to room clusters, with charting alcoves and niches positioned outside every two patient rooms; also scattered throughout are ‘play nests’ with brightly colored foam walls where toddlers can play.”

“The rooms are acuity-adaptable and particularly large to allow lots of room, both for moving various types of medical equipment and to give families plenty of space, comfort, and a sense of control. The bay windows, which are visible on the exterior of the building, give families more space to spread out—a sibling could sleep there if he or she wanted to. There is also a sofa that converts to a double bed. The large windows bring in abundant natural light and offer views of the neighborhood, the rooftop gardens, and the animal sculptures. Much of this room design came from our planning discussions with patients and families.”

“The multifaith family chapel is designed to comfortably accommodate all religious services. For example, although some historic stained-glass panels were moved here from the existing chapel, the pastoral care staff wanted to make sure that these panels could be hidden away when the chapel was in use by non-Christian religious groups. Working with the contractor, who was wonderful about this (these panels are very heavy and posed quite a challenge), we devised a way to place them on sliding tracks that allow them to disappear into the walls, when appropriate.” HD