The mystery of Saturn's rings, Jupiter's moons, and other heavenly bodies has
delighted astronomers and laypeople alike. Now these same images are delighting
patients and their families in Norfolk, VA. Food Lion Children's Rehabilitation
Unit at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters (CHKD) adds a healthy
dose of imagination to a serious space.
Norfolk, VA, and the surrounding Virginia Beach region lacked a long-term rehabilitation
facility for its children. This need spurred the non-profit hospital to transform
the 17,000-square-foot outpatient space on its seventh floor into a rehab facility.
Supermarket chain Food Lion, Norfolk, VA, sponsored the acute care unit with
a $627,000 gift. Roanoke, VA-based architecture firm HSMM worked with the hospital's
facilities management department to make the facility - pardon the pun! - out
of this world.
Without a local rehab facility, the families of sick children were forced to
travel long distances. "It's vital to have families close at hand during
[a child's] long-term rehab," says Jamie Gaabo, lead interior designer,
HSMM, Roanoke, VA. The average patient's length of stay is four weeks, though
it can range anywhere from several weeks to several months.
Since the age range of patients is from toddlers to teenagers, it is a challenge
to design an interior that appeals to all ages. "[CHKD] does a lot with
making its facilities less institutional in design that adds to the health environment
for the children," says Gaabo. For three years, graphic artists from the
nearby NASA-Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, had been volunteering at the
hospital. The hospital had a wealth of astronomy-based professional artwork
and photography. Taking this good work as inspiration, the facilities and design
professionals decided upon a deep space theme.
"Some of the physical therapy is very painful; this is the hardest work
imaginable to ask a child to do. It's important for the place to have a sense
of specialness, a place that's really fun," says George Stinnett, hospital
spokesperson, CHKD, Norfolk, VA. From top to bottom, the rehab facility echoes
this fun, fanciful approach. A textured custom carpet features images of constellations,
comets, and quasars nestled in a midnight blue background - defining the space
and unifying the facility.
On the walls in patients' rooms, almost in concert with original artwork, wallpaper
borders bear star configurations. Rooms are even named after constellations
to educate patients about astronomy terms.
Continuing the star-studded theme, the primary nurses' stations are fashioned
as a futuristic command center. With space-age curves, the workstations are
ergonomically designed to benefit hard-working staff members - and are scaled
down to be more approachable for young patients.
Approachable also means adhering to normal family routines - including occasions
for celebration. The unit needed a suitable space for numerous children's birthday
parties and informal get-togethers. Adjacent to the primary nurses' stations
is the Saturn Lounge, a multi-purpose break room. The heavily used break room
features durable vinyl flooring sprinkled with colorful planets and an open-frame,
industrial-looking ceiling with a metallic-blue, star-spangled background. Though
sturdy, the space is more Buck Rogers than General Hospital.
The facility's most impressive feature is its Moonwalk. The project team collaborated
with artist volunteers from NASA to take the unit's interior corridor in a different
direction. Bright alien landscape murals, featuring child-friendly extraterrestrials,
cover the walls and ceilings.
"There is a sense of ownership in our community with this project. A lot
of volunteers, young adults mostly, donated late nights and weekends to create
this striking feature," says Stinnett. The unit became a NASA-approved
community project. Black lights and displays lend the corridor an other-worldly
The staff is proud of the unusual workplace; even their medical uniforms pay
homage to space travel. And the playful design resonates with patients and their
families. "I think that having a theme that ties the design into something
concrete instead of simply an attractive space is important in children's spaces.
It adds a lot of life," says Gaabo.
The Food Lion Children's Rehabilitation Unit is wonderfully alive. The facility
is a bold adventure that never forgets the needs of its young patients.