Inside Children's Blog

From houses to hospitals, architect is living the dream

Norio helps lead a kaizen workshop to design Akron Children's new NICU using small scale models.

Norio helps lead a kaizen workshop to design Akron Children’s new NICU using small scale models.

Norio Tsuchiya has dreamed of being an architect since he was in third grade and his best friend in Ecuador told him that some people design houses for a living.

So in 1991 when the opportunity arose, he made the trek to the United States to pursue his passion. He received his undergraduate degree from Letourneau University in Longview, Texas, and went on to earn his master of architecture at Texas A&M University.

He began his career designing upscale, modern homes, but soon realized he wanted to do more.

Norio Tsuchiya

Norio Tsuchiya

In 2007 he joined HKS Architects, where he began designing healthcare facilities around the country that impacted the lives of hundreds of people. Today, he’s vice president and senior project designer of the Dallas-based firm’s healthcare academic and pediatric team.

“In some ways, it has been way more than I was thinking that I would be doing,” said Tsuchiya, reflecting upon his childhood dream. “I’m still doing things that I love to do − to create beautiful buildings, but [I’m designing] spaces that help people heal and feel better. I can’t ask for more than that.”

Tsuchiya is now digging deep into Akron Children’s Hospital’s $200 million “Building on the Promise” expansion campaign. As lead designer, he led the collaborative effort to design the exterior elements of the medical tower, now under construction.

The exterior design was derived from visioning sessions with Akron Children’s leaders, staff, patient families, and the community.

When family members communicated a desire for individual spaces and lots of natural light in the new neonatal intensive care unit, Tsuchiya and his team were sure to incorporate these aspects into the new building.

HKS Architects and Akron Children's sent 1,000 origami cranes to Hiroshima to be placed at the Children's Peace Monument.

HKS Architects and Akron Children’s sent 1,000 origami cranes to Hiroshima to be placed at the Children’s Peace Monument.

In addition, Akron Children’s Hospital President and CEO Bill Considine expressed interest during these sessions to create an inviting and naturally lit front entrance – not only to offer families comfort when approaching the hospital, but also as a wayfinding tool.

Tsuchiya and his team expanded upon that vision, creating a transparent path illuminated with an innovative lighting system to connect the new parking garage to the tower’s main lobby and then again to the existing hospital’s lobby.

Norio Tsuchiya“The building isn’t just a device to create this aesthetic vision,” said Tsuchiya, who, now that construction is well underway, only steps in to problem-solve if issues arise on how the design is conceived. “We’re trying to let the design communicate some of the ways that the building actually works.”

With a mellow personality and soft-spoken nature, it’s no surprise Tsuchiya is making a name for himself designing healthcare facilities — from children’s hospitals to teaching hospitals — that incorporate calm and relaxing healing environments.

“That sort of attention to the patient experience is what I love about doing architecture in healthcare,” he said. “Everybody thinks that you have to plaster it with color and make it really busy. I think I’m able to temper that urge to go crazy and really consider the experience of everybody.”