Lancaster General Health (LGH), a regional healthcare system based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, offers comprehensive healthcare services to Lancaster County residents, ranging from emergency medicine and general surgery to cancer care and women’s health. The family-centered Lancaster General Health Women & Babies Hospital focuses exclusively on women’s healthcare needs, from adolescence through and beyond child-bearing years.

LGH recently repositioned the Women & Babies Hospital entrance pavilion guest services area in preparation for its 10th anniversary celebration. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania-based architecture and interior design firm Noelker and Hull Associates Inc. was commissioned to unify the entrance pavilion’s primary public spaces and accessory functions to accommodate LGH’s high-quality and aesthetic standards.

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Within the scope of the project, LGH requested that an existing “Stories from Light” ceiling light sculpture in the Women’s and Babies lobby area be retained in place and emphasized in the reception pavilion’s design. The design team was asked to envision the space renovation without budgetary restraint and to produce hospitality-based design concepts in the entrance pavilion that could be implemented across the campus during future renovations. The reality of budget constraints for the new design would be dealt with only after approval by the LGH leadership team.

Noelker and Hull assembled relevant standards of healthcare design with higher-end hospitality luxury into a cohesive, welcoming environment that gives the facility a new identity as its reception pavilion.



‘Stories from Light’

Commissioned by Massachusetts artist Stephen Knapp during the original construction of the facility, the Stories from Light light sculpture establishes a distinctive focal point in the reception area that creates a rainbow of color on the ceiling and disperses soft, glowing colors onto adjacent surfaces. Created in dichroic glass and stainless steel, the sculpture’s many attributes, iridescence, prismatic colors, and reflectivity were a constant in the interior space design.

To develop an appropriate renovation solution, the architect, interior designers, and LGH’s project management team concentrated on material properties and their ability to reflect, emit, and absorb light.


Finding a solution for the space

The existing building’s rigid form and structure, and limited 7,400-square-foot space divided among triage, delivery, family pavilion, and adjacency requirements for security, guest services, volunteer offices, and the gift shop were significant contributing factors to the interior design solution. Though designing without theoretical financial boundaries proved to be a challenge, the budget was duly controlled through deliberate selections of local and regional materials that closely resembled more expensive materials.

However, the unlimited budget ideal spurred the team’s creativity and design approach in removing the constraints of typical budget-oriented construction. As the vision took shape, the financial expense was managed through careful coordination among the senior LGH leadership, the construction manager, architect, and interior designer.

The lobby’s existing architectural design integrated a rigid cylindrical ceiling with circles emanating throughout the space, from bulkheads, existing floor patterns, and the overall plan shape. The circle form was forcefully imposed on the original design, directing the interior design team to focus on softening its influence—while not ignoring it—to create a more organic flow without oversimplifying the space. The multi-piece light sculpture was carefully protected during the multi-phase project, with only the artwork’s illumination fixtures removed during the renovation.


Solving an acoustical challenge

The decade-old cylindrical space functioned as a large drum, trapping sounds from adjacent space and reverberating noise into the central cylinder of the layout. Without structurally altering the space, a cone of silence was unattainable. LGH recognized that the existing design—both in shape and material—did little to create a soft acoustical environment for the central patient and visitor reception and waiting areas.

With the client’s directive that the light sculpture not be moved and the ceiling above it not be altered, the design team worked to rectify the issues through plan layout and material selection. Noelker and Hull integrated carpeting, sound-absorbing ceiling panels, free-standing partitions, and fabric-wrapped acoustic panels around the edges of the upper cylinder to mollify the acoustics.

With various sound-absorbing materials included in the renovation design, residual acoustical concerns remained. Noelker and Hull ultimately engaged professional acoustical consultant Chris Brooks, of New York-based Acoustic Dimensions, to evaluate the design and further minimize acoustical values to create a quiet, calm, and inviting atmosphere appropriate for the healthcare setting.  

Brooks noted that the acoustical situation resulted from a combination of two factors: circular geometry focusing the sound in the space and a lack of sound-absorbing materials. With custom, poured-in-place terrazzo patterns already finalized and approved for the major public interaction zones of the floor plan, Brooks recommended increasing the use of sound-absorbing material in the secondary seating and waiting areas.

Making adjustments to these areas was recognized as the most practical approach to reduce sound resonance from the hard floor surface to the hard ceiling surface. Fabric-wrapped acoustic panels applied and built into the walls of the waiting and seating area was also encouraged, and cloud canopies were installed on the drywall ceiling to buffer ambient sound.


Finding inspiration

Working with existing shapes, space forms, and artwork originally challenged the design team but ultimately stimulated its creativity to develop a successful design solution.

The renovations were guided by LGH’s recognition of hospitality and spa environment trends in healthcare settings with a desire to refocus the campus on family-centered ideals. The resulting interior design expands the light sculpture’s rainbow effect onto adjacent surfaces. Additional design elements used to create the solution included:

  • A focus on saturated colors established by the prismatic effect of the art sculpture;
  • A custom carpet pattern with overlapping curvilinear shapes of a deep chroma color palette;
  • A terrazzo floor pattern to accentuate the overlapping curvilinear shapes on a larger scale with flecks of mirror for reflectivity and glass for shine;
  • A decorative metal column wrap to define circulation paths and seating opportunities
  • Backlit tempered art glass featuring abstracted natural images complementing the artwork’s prismatic color effect;
  • A central curving white glass tile feature wall to support the artwork’s prismatic influences;
  • A natural wood veneer wallcovering to balance the coolness of glass, tile, mirror fleck, and metal, and to introduce warmth into the design;
  • Twin horizontal sculptural relief panel walls with cove recessed color-changing LED light accents; and
  • Lighting concepts, including programmable LED lighting, variable dimming custom backlighting of the translucent art glass wall, jeweled pedant fixtures, and decorative custom sconce fixtures to reinforce design intent. 

Spanning the main entry and receiving area through the mediation spaces and into an adjacent dedicated children’s area, the reception pavilion welcomes patients and guests with natural burle wood veneers, earth-tone recycled glass panels, and natural fiber wallcoverings to evoke a textural and sensory experience.

As the primary entry point to the facility, the reception pavilion’s renovated design eases wayfinding and encourages interaction between LGH guest services staff, and clients. Reflectivity, iridescence, femininity, saturation, and hospitality emerged as the keynotes through the creative explorations of this exciting renovation project that redeveloped the LGH aesthetic.

Completed in time for the October 10, 2010, celebration, this project has positioned the Lancaster General Health Women & Babies Hospital as a leading facility in women’s care and a benchmark for healthcare environments throughout the region. HCD


Todd M. Harshman, AIA, is principal at Noelker and Hull Associates Inc., in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at