Do Creatively Designed Spaces Encourage Healing In Children?

Good design can brighten your spirits and of course make your space look beautiful, but there is a new study that is about to go underway that is trying to understand the extent to which healing spaces promote health and healing during hospitalization Researchers at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, formerly Children’s Memorial, will be using the Crown Sky Garden, a 5-thousand square foot garden on the 11th floor of the 23 story hospital as a focal point of the study. The garden, named in honor of Chicago’s philanthropic Crown family, includes dozens of bamboo trees, an interactive wall that changes colors as people walk by and carved benches made from trees planted by Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of the famed Central Park) for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

“There has been little work on understanding the role of respite spaces in children’s hospitals and I believe this study will have a significant impact on how hospitals are designed in the future,” said Paula Crown who had a leadership role in the development of the unique garden.

Lurie Children’s is partnering with the internationally-recognized Center for Health Design to examine the impact of hospital design on stress levels in hospitalized children and their parents.

“One of the things we know about children is that they need to be engaged in addition to needing a quiet place,” said Jenifer Cartland, PhD, director of the Child Health Data Lab at Lurie Children’s, and the study’s principal investigator. “There is a lot of activity in the Crown Sky Garden that give children a break from the hospital setting including the wooden benches that emit sounds of animals and nature when you walk by.”

The Crown Sky Garden brings in a needed connection to light, sound, water and wood elements. The blue translucent interactive light wall that weaves through the garden represents the Chicago River and changes color and brightness as people approach it. Eco-friendly bamboo planters divide the space to allow for active use as well as a more quiet respite.

Lurie Children’s is also part of the Pebble Project, a group of 50 hospitals worldwide that are committed to studying specific innovations in hospital design. Research on the Crown Sky Garden will be shared with other hospitals as they move from conception to design in their own spaces.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is a state-of-the art hospital located on the campus of its academic partner, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The hospital is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in U.S.News & World Report. The hospital relies on philanthropic support to care for more than 148,000 children each year.

A mom to two girls and a baby boy, a writer and the publisher of Child Mode. As a lover of style and fashion, Nadia found her ‘niche’ and love of children’s clothing while searching for quality items for her family.


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One Response to "Do Creatively Designed Spaces Encourage Healing In Children?"

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  1. Nancy Evans

    October 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    As a designer who specializes in spaces for children (with degrees in both Early Childhood Education and Interior Design, along with over 20 years of study of children’s environmental design research), the particular place being used as the “focal point of the study” concerns me. It is, again, an architect’s idea of what children like — full of “gimmicks” to keep them “engaged” and man-made, inorganic materials, rather than a research-based, developmentally appropriate, and natural place for children and families. Planting some trees and using logs for benches is not enough. I’m also concerned that the “wooden benches that emit sounds of animals and nature when you walk by” could be startling or frightening to some children. (Logs don’t do that!)

    One of my children spent many months in the hospital, and I appreciate the need for places to “get away” from the clinical settings. Most, if not all, children’s hospitals have spaces for “recreational therapy” (play), but seldom anywhere to go for respite. Healing places should be designed from a viewpoint that more fully integrates the needs of the users along with more natural settings. High ceilings, hard surfaces and intense colors increase stress in children.

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