Regular hospital environments can seem even scarier and more intimidating to children than they do to adult patients. That’s why lots of pediatric hospitals around the world are swapping their sterile corridors for colorful fantasy-themed designs plus fun characters and games that distract kids and allow them to escape. Featuring everything from magic forests to shark-filled fish tanks, here are ten incredible children’s hospital designs that aim to put a smile back on young patients’ faces.
10. Dell Children’s Medical Center – Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas has been called “breathtaking.” Thanks to playful additions like a giant guitar in the main lobby, an interactive donor wall, and assorted artwork with “healing power,” the hospital provides its patients with a truly engaging atmosphere. The centerpiece, however, is the multi-level healing garden, which stretches over three acres and includes a labyrinth, an outdoor movie theater, a human sundial and a bubbling waterfall. In 2008 Dell Children’s Medical Center became the first hospital to be awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certification. And adding to its fun credentials, the hospital also features a train station-themed specialized area for the Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders Program.
9. Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital – Gothenburg, Sweden
With its playful decor and design, Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden aims to whisk children away on fun jungle safaris during their visits to its examination rooms. You see, Swedish design agency BrittaBritta conceived jungle-themed exam rooms and other spaces for the hospital’s emergency department. And when patients are ready for fun instead of tranquility, the hospital also has playrooms, table tennis and even a music studio. The wide selection of entertainment and distractions on offer is the result of tireless fundraising efforts. One fundraising initiative involved patients shaping donation-request letters into “cootie catchers,” paper planes and footballs, before they were delivered to prospective donors. The result? A 320 percent increase in donations.
8. Evelina Children’s Hospital – London, U.K.
Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, England is an architectural wonder. In 2006 the hospital won an Institute of Structural Engineers’ Structural Award in the Educational or Health Structures category. The atrium of the hospital is enclosed almost entirely by glass, which lets in an abundance of natural light. Elsewhere, the hospital benefits from Radio Lollipop, which is a charity that arranges entertainment and visits for children in hospital while also broadcasting exclusive programming for them. And when they’re not listening to the radio, patients can watch movies at the on-site cinema – provided by charity MediCinema – which features a big screen, Dolby Surround Sound, and easy access for kids in wheelchairs and even in beds. Previously, the hospital even showcased a cool helter skelter for patients to enjoy – although it’s sadly no longer there.
7. Texas Children’s Hospital – Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
The Texas Children’s Hospital – the biggest children’s hospital in the U.S. – is part of the Texas Medical Center in Houston. This hospital contains aquariums, two-story play apparatus, art-filled hallways, and bustling play areas. One of the hospital’s patients, eight-year-old Christopher Astudillo, took fun to a whole new level during his stay in May 2011. Admitted for acute myeloid leukemia treatment, Christopher played Frisbee, football and basketball in the halls and even made Play-Doh volcanoes. He invented his own game, too: “Chris Chemo Wars,” which involved him drawing cancer cells on paper and shooting them with paint-filled “chemo” syringes. The hospital also features a Child Life Zone, an area in which patients can play games and forget about their illnesses for at least a few moments. Like London’s Evelina Children’s Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital boasts a Radio Lollipop station, which is programmed by the youngsters themselves.
6. Sanford Children’s Hospital – Sioux Falls, South Dakota, U.S.A.
As its name suggests, Sanford Children’s “Castle of Care” Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was designed to resemble a castle – and by the looks of it, the plan was rather successful. Each floor represents a different region from the story The Legend of Sanford Castle, which is a story and coloring book created by writer Michael Green and illustrator Sara Weingartner specially for the hospital. The ground floor, for instance, is “Rushing River Valley,” while the third floor is the “Enchanted Forest.” The book is given to all patients when they’re admitted. Various artworks in keeping with the castle theme boost the sense of fantasy and escapism. And the hospital contains almost 4,000 square feet of murals, as well as 601 ceiling tiles that were painted by previous patients. It also boasts customized playrooms, a royal balcony, and a food menu with items like “Fruits fit for a Queen.”
5. Phoenix Children’s Hospital – Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.
According to Dallas-based architects HKS – the firm behind this bright and colorful place – the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona draws its inspiration from a desert flower blooming at night. The exciting interior, which includes vibrantly colorful fixtures and an eye-catching “wall of water” – in fact made from light – serves both to entertain patients and make them feel at ease. The hospital also contains a Child Life Zone, a 3800-square-foot play area featuring a multi-purpose theater, a gaming wall, pool tables, pinball machines and air hockey, and a studio that allows youngsters to create programming for the hospital’s private television network.
4. Nemours Children’s Hospital – Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida is filled with cool elements – such as a saltwater fish tank, supplied by SeaWorld, on the ground floor. The hospital also features animal-assisted activities, whereby highly trained dogs are allowed to visit young patients, inevitably bringing smiles to their faces. Fun and vibrancy at the hospital is enhanced by two rooftop terraces, which include obstacle courses and pathways to explore, and a sense-based “discovery garden” complete with sweet-scented flowers and xylophone benches. Patients can also pick their own custom room colors; six-year-old Timber Branagan opted for a purple-lit ambiance at night, even though she “loved them all.” The hospital’s design and floor-to-ceiling windows in rooms allow sunlight to flood into the building, which a recent study has suggested improves patient wellbeing.
3. The Royal Children’s Hospital – Melbourne, Australia
The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia is no ordinary children’s hospital. This US$903 million (AUS$1 billion) project boasts a six-story atrium and light-filled “Main Street” area, featuring a giant public aquarium with three sharks and around 40 fish species, interactive video screens, exhibits by notable Australian artists, and a meerkat enclosure looked after by Melbourne Zoo. But the centerpiece of the Main Street area is “Creature,” a 45-foot-tall sculpture by artist Alexander Knox comprising an array of organic shapes and colors. The hospital also features a tapestry entitled “The Games Children Play,” which illustrator Robert Ingpen crafted to promote the importance of art in a hospital environment and to provide a fun distraction for the patients.
2. Royal London’s Children Hospital – London, U.K.
Whether you’re a patient at or simply a visitor to Royal London’s Children Hospital in London, you’ll almost certainly meet Stan the Rabbit, owls Tweet and Twoo, and Eddie the Tiger. These fun-loving mascots hang out in the hospital’s jumbo living room-style play area, the Ann Riches Healing Space, which also features an oversized chair and popular interactive experience Wiggle Wood. Wiggle Wood is an installation that lets kids use movement to get involved in a storybook world projected onto a giant television screen. In the game, children can paint, play music, and even activate sun, snow and rainbows with various animated characters in a series of fun landscapes. And if kids grow tired of the play area, they can always head to the roof terrace, where a treehouse, canvas teepee and arbor offer a potentially more relaxing experience.
1. Nationwide Children’s Hospital – Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.
Prepare to be whisked away by the magic forest of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Designed as a fun escape for patients, the forest includes two-story fabricated trees, woodland “creatures,” vibrant wall graphics, and a café. Nurses on the clinical therapy floors even use the prospect of visits to the forest to motivate their patients. In addition to the hospital’s playful interior, there is an engaging outdoor area marked by a six-acre park that boasts both a maze and a fragrance garden. And should children fancy something more educational, there are discreet computer stations and educational spaces distributed around. Kids are also treated to fun features in their rooms, where they can control the glow and color of the walls with the touch of a button.