In order to meet the medical and surgical needs of patients by providing care close to their homes, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) decided to expand its network of ambulatory care centers.

Self-developed and currently under construction, with completion expected in 2015, is a new, freestanding Specialty Care Center in King of Prussia, Pa. The 145,000–square-foot project collocates existing specialty care practices and expands regional ambulatory care and surgery services.

The site is a recently developed multiuse park that’s bounded by a number of major routes and highways for ease of access. The program includes urgent care, primary care, specialty care, imaging, orthopedics, and physical and occupational therapy.

The goal of the building design, led by EwingCole (Philadelphia), was to create an environment that children and teenagers would find fresh and interesting, even on recurring visits. The light and colors, selected to be visually and emotionally stimulating and accessible to all ages and cultures, create an uplifting environment supportive of the healing process.

A notion of “wandering on the grounds” was designed into the building through a series of topographical elements within public zones that form ponds, eddies, and pebbles that serve specific programmatic roles by loosely defining care areas.

This internal landscape was extended to the building exterior through the curtain wall, a series of site walls, and the entrance canopy. The geometry created then flows into a sloped garden area. The fluid topography encourages a sense of movement and discovery, creating a more complex visual ground.

The curtain wall was also designed to provide a non-static quality for the building’s surface and mass, with a pattern of colored bars that invite the eye to travel along the surface. As a visitor’s gaze encounters the colored bars of glass and moves along the surface of the building, there’s an opportunity to constantly discover different nuances that emerge from the changing quality of the atmospheric light during times of day and seasons.

The effect is continued inside thanks to the overlay of light as it enters the building through the bars of colored glass, falling on interior elements and creating an ever-changing mosaic of color, form, reflection, and refraction. Sloped and curvilinear vertical forms create a sense of visual framing for both the interior and exterior views.

Clear circulation includes separate entrances for families, staff, and supplies—each on a different side of the building. The interior layout was designed not only for ease of navigation but to minimize the load on elevators; lower-traffic areas are located on the upper levels.

The first floor includes reception and registration; the main waiting area seats up to 80 people. The second floor combines multiple services: an infusion area, imaging, and sedation and recovery for imaging (90 percent of pediatric patients are sedated for imaging). The sedation area is repurposed at night for sleep studies.  

The third floor houses ambulatory surgery, with two ORs, a gym for physical therapy, and allergy and cardiac care.

Working within CHOP’s standard color palette, designers incorporated gradients to maximize the facility’s visual appeal and therapeutic potential. To ensure budget constraints were met without compromising quality, areas such as the entry vestibule, check-in and registration, and main waiting areas received higher-end finishes than less public spaces.

The Specialty Care Center is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification. More than 50 percent of the medical equipment and furniture will be reused from the existing practices being consolidated into the new facility. With cost a key concern, the budget was checked by independent estimators during design/development and construction document phases to evaluate the impact of sustainable design strategies and ensure resources were allocated as effectively as possible.

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