March 14, 2016
E. Ramon Cavazos III, AIA, CCCA, NCARB

The traditional African proverb would tell us that “It takes a village to raise a child,” but when it comes to designing a children’s hospital, I would argue it takes much more than a village. The design of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana included physicians, nurses, families, patients, engineers, architects, interior designers, and more working from locations across the country.  The process of integrating user groups and family focus meetings is nothing new to how HKS Health delivers projects; however, the collaboration of people across the entire firm who helped make this project great is inspiring and promotes the idea that great design can come from anyone, anywhere.

More than a decade of planning and strategic vision has gone into the design of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, the first freestanding children’s hospital to be built in Louisiana in over forty years.  The goal was to build a hospital for the children of the entire state, not just the city of Baton Rouge.  “Children make up nearly twenty-five percent of Louisiana’s population and these children are our future. We recognize our role and responsibility to provide the necessary tools for our youth to grow into healthy adults,” Dr. Shaun Kemmerly, Chief Medical Officer of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, remarked at the recent ground breaking celebration on February 18, 2016.

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A visit to the new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital is a journey that explores the unique ecoregions found throughout Louisiana.  This connection to nature is a foundational Franciscan tradition that drives Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, the hospital’s health system. Nature as a reflection of the divine was the driving idea behind the overall concept for the building, which aims to “celebrate what He has created in the place you call home.”

Designing around this concept required thorough research of Louisiana’s native flora and fauna and conversations with hospital staff, patients, and families.  The effort resulted in a collection of different themed ecoregions, each with an associated color palette, a pair of animal mascots to aid in wayfinding, and interactive elements through the public spaces used to delineate the hospital’s different departments.

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The design and execution of the hospital’s branded ecoregions required that professionals within the health system, from various consulting firms, and from three different HKS offices collaborate between the fields of graphic design, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering and architecture. As an architect who coordinated the work of two graphic designers for feature walls, assisted in the selection of carpet for consultation rooms, and participated in the continued development of the building’s exterior, the process was altogether exhausting (in a good way, of course) and rewarding.  When the traditional compartmentalization of design responsibilities is taken away and the group recognizes the talents of all of team members and lets them flourish, truly amazing things happen.  Best of all, our client loves the collaboratively produced design of their new facility and can’t wait for the real shovels to hit the dirt, not just the ceremonial ones. 

To find out more about the new hospital, please visit http://www.ololchildrens.org/facts-and-figures.

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Posted in Health, Interiors