Combating the fear and anxiety experienced during hospital visits is especially challenging for children and their families, but the design of Randall Children’s Hospital by ZGF Architects beckons children to come in and play. Located on the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center campus in Portland, Oregon, the 334,000-square-foot facility consolidates services that were previously housed in disparate locations and connects to an existing hospital building that still provides support services. Appropriately, the new facility references its Pacific Northwestern context, but also takes cues from hospitality design and the visuals to which children respond positively.
As a child or adult, no one feels at ease receiving medical care in an institutional environment, so one of the top design goals was putting visitors as ease. The project team researched palettes and forms that would lend a welcoming feel, atypical of a hospital, for both public and private zones. In the main lobby, this is conveyed through curvilinear elements that range from an undulating wood ceiling to an LED backlit, ribbon- like Corian frieze. Custom-designed wood pendants resembling dangling baubles present an intimate alternative to the fluorescent tubes often encountered in healthcare facilities. Patient rooms are accessed through bamboo doors, and feature wood headboard walls and curved bamboo “canopies” above beds. Sofas convert into guest sleepers for visiting family. Bathrooms have colored-glass sliding doors. And lightbox walls made of zebrawood in the corridors double as nightlights for patients.
Serving four different geographic areas—Willamette Valley, Cascade Range, Oregon Coast, and Desert—the hospital incorporates color palettes and textures inspired by these four regions as a wayfinding system. A tranquil coastal color theme infuses calm in the neonatal intensive care unit and an active desert palette weaves through the emergency department, for example. An abundance of windows—some floor-to-ceiling—offer views of those referenced Portland landscapes, as well as an abundance of natural light.
Drawing on research that concludes?children have a strong affinity for imagery found in nature, the designers figured flora and fauna prominently into the project—but in a restrained fashion. Each floor has a feature animal represented by tasteful silhouettes that are first introduced in the floor’s elevator lobby. Rendered in color or light, many of these critters are situated low within nurses’ stations and walls to meet the typical eye level of toddlers.
To truly emulate a hospitality setting, the hospital is chock full of amenity spaces that soothe patients and their family members alike. “The overarching goal was to create a sense of unexpected discovery and thoughtful distractions,” says Sharron van der Meulen, ZGF’s principal interior designer on the project. Expansive two-story family lounges are located on each patient floor, furnished with comfy seating, tables, television screens, computers, and fun, designer animal chairs such as the Dodo Rocking Bird and Puppy from Magis. Visitors can benefit from art therapy in a dedicated studio stocked with art supplies for individual or collaborative creativity. A wellness center provides exercise space for patients’ families while they wait. And the corridor connecting the new hospital to the existing one houses a gallery of nature-inspired works such as faux trees and wall-mounted birdhouses framing mixed-media art installations.
“We’ve long incorporated biophilic and evidence-based design to help inspire, soothe, and improve the quality of care and health outcomes for patients,” says van der Muelen.