Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

5/11/2010

Through a child's eyes

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Designing spaces for children to heal

Written and Photographed by: Carren Jao
Additional photography courtesy of Golisano Children's Hospital
Published: Bluprint magazine, April 2010

Children are not just small adults. Every good physician knows this—and so should any good architect. Designing for children presents unique challenges that Karlsberger Architecture knows only too well.

Karlsberger Architecture is responsible for the newly opened Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, which services the specialized needs of children from the Canadian border all the way to the Philadelphia border in Northeast United States.

With the closing of many pediatric floors around the area in 2003 and 2004, the need for an expanded pediatric hospital became even greater. In 2009, after an extensive $15-million capital campaign, administrators finally unveiled the East Tower vertical expansion of SUNY Upstate Medical University, of which the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital is the centerpiece.

Housed on the 11th and 12th floor of the East Tower, the children’s hospital provides 87,000 additional square feet of space to accommodate young patients and their families. The hospital is a result of years of extensive planning said Leola Rodgers, Associate Administrator for the hospital.

Part of the planning process involved taking two large buses for hospital administrators and developers to visit seven other children’s hospitals from Westchester to Philadelphia. To cull ideas far and wide, the planning committee also put up large poster boards in the conference rooms, family waiting rooms and staff rooms bearing one key question, “If money was no object, what would you like to see in a children’s hospital?

“We were able to get everything they wanted on that list in the children’s hospital. There is not one thing on that list that we don’t have here,” said Rodgers. The result is an almost luxurious set of amenities not only for young, rambunctious patients, but also for their families.

"We wanted to create an environment that was as much about discovery as it is about recovery - to ease boredom, uplift spirits and help them heal and get back to the business of being kids,” said Douglas Barga, project architect for the hospital, in a previous interview. To accomplish this, the children’s hospital incorporates a number of features made with young patients in mind.

Eye-catching exteriors

Even from outside, the children’s hospital is unlike any other building surrounding it. Shaped like a tree, the children’s hospital soars above the rest of Syracuse city. The purple trunk supports cubes cantilevered on its upper portions. Instead of leaves, the extensions boast of green, orange and yellow glass panes that let in a generous amount of sunshine.

Sunny interiors

Throughout the children’s hospital, large windows let in much-needed sunshine. The solarium on the 12th floor is also placed on the corner for maximum light. Some windows are intentionally lowered to accommodate a child’s line of sight.

Other than sunlight, each floor makes use of themes to pique a child’s interest. The 11th and 12th floors make use of “sky” and “space” themes respectively. The themes also serve as a navigational tool for those too stressed to take note of their surroundings or too young to read, said Rodgers.

Remembering the details

Alcoves along the hallways, a wall mural and even room signs also correspond to the theme. Even light fixtures are not exempt from the thematic treatment. On the 11th floor, a light fixture gives off light in the shape of a cloud. Some fixtures are also shaped like a ladybug flying about the room. With a little imagination, even the mundane can be made inviting. “We try not to have that medicinal look for everything,” said Rodgers.

Children’s spaces

There are 46 rooms on the adult floors of the hospital. In the pediatric floors, there are 35 or 36 rooms. “The difference is made up in some of the amenities that we have to have for pediatrics,” said Rodgers.

The children’s hospital comes equipped with a schoolroom so patients can keep up with their classes even while recuperating. High-definition videoconferencing equipment also helps them attend classes from the hospital premises. Computers can also be found all around the non-patient rooms for adult or children’s use.

To promote mobility, oxygen suction stations are positioned in all rooms. “So children are not restricted to their rooms,” explained Rodgers.

Family affair

The Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital knows that when a child checks into the facility, he comes not only with himself but also with a whole brood of caring adults. “You don’t just provide care to the kids, you have to provide it for the family,” said Rodgers.

With this in mind, additional amenities are available specifically for family use. Patient rooms include a couch that pulls out into two double beds are available, as well as a small desk for the parents to work in.

According to Rodgers, the washer/dryer room on each of the floors makes the most difference. With more than 52% of their patients coming from out of town, the room gets a lot of use, especially for those unprepared to be checked into the hospital. “Patients feel like decent human beings. They may not be able to control a lot of stuff with the medication, but [making sure they have clean clothes] is something they can do.”

Open for less than a year, the children’s hospital is already operating at 80% capacity. With more than 50,000 children treated on the premises annually, the new Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital is a welcome addition to the lives of young children and their families.

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