Inside Children's Blog akronchildrens.org

Through the eyes of a child: New building interiors focus on the backyard theme

An abstract sculpture of a hanging tree will be a key interior design feature in the main lobby of the new building.

An abstract sculpture of a hanging tree will be a key interior design feature in the main lobby of the new building.

Colorful, engaging spaces and child-friendly art installations are woven throughout the fabric of Akron Children’s Hospital’s facilities. It’s an important part of the care we provide.

Spaces that make kids feel relaxed and happy, even though they’re in the hospital, can actually help with recovery and ease pain.

It was with this in mind that hospital leadership asked the design team for our 7-story medical tower to look “through the eyes of a child” during the planning process. The result is The Backyard, the new building’s design theme.

Each floor of the new building will represent a different aspect of the backyard, with its own paint, carpet, flooring and graphics to support the theme:

  • 1st Floor Emergency department will represent a puddle, with aqua as the primary color (a cool, calming palette)
  • 3rd Floor Outpatient surgery center will represent a sandbox, with a warm, orange color (a bright, lively palette)
  • 4th Floor High-risk delivery area will represent a garden, with a soothing, yet cheerful color palette
  • 6th Floor NICU will represent a daytime tree house, with green as the primary color (a tranquil, inspiring palette)
  • 7th Floor NICU will represent a nighttime tree house, with the tranquil, inspiring color of raspberry
The new ER space will represent the puddle in The Big Backyard Theme, using aqua as the primary color.

The new ER space will represent the puddle in The Big Backyard Theme, using aqua as the primary color.

When visitors walk off the elevators, they’ll also see large-scale murals representing the appropriate theme for each floor.

Other design considerations: LEED, patient needs, and more

Beyond the art and colors of the theme, the design team had other important considerations.

To achieve LEED Silver certification, the interior design team is avoiding paints with volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ensuring that carpet and flooring adhesives have low VOC levels. They’re also considering ease of maintenance.

“Hospital flooring is traditionally 12” x 12” tiles that need to be stripped and waxed,” said Andrea Sponsel of HKS Architects and one of the interior design team members.  “The new building will have sheet vinyl flooring that requires no wax, reducing fumes and downtime.  The flooring in the patient restrooms will also be a seamless, slip-resistant flooring, eliminating traditional grouted tiles that are harder to maintain.”

The needs of patients and their families have also been top of mind.

“We are designing for different age groups, cultures and demographics, and not just patients,” said Sponsel.  “We want this to be a nice destination for visiting siblings, too.”

Both the main lobby and outpatient surgery center waiting area will have play areas, featuring a backyard fence with peek-a-boo holes.

Orange will be the primary paint color of the outpatient surgery center.

Orange will be the primary paint color of the outpatient surgery center.

The holes will be placed at eye levels appropriate to different ages. When you peer through the holes lower to the ground, for instance, you’ll see graphic and interactive elements aimed at toddlers and preschoolers. The middle will be geared toward the child and young adolescent age groups, and the top will contain teen and adult content.

“Hospital staff saw the design and materials during their team sessions, and the families had input on the design ideas,” Sponsel said. “As the building is enclosed and walls go up, the finishes will start to be applied, with most of the work being completed by the end of 2014.”

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