Graceful geometry. Stylish, yet unassuming finishes. True function. A sense of community. At Women’s Pavilion & Birthplace at Western Wake Medical Center, Cary, NC, exceptional staff offer their services within a sensitive, appealing facility for a quality of healthcare far beyond the norm.The clear aesthetic and functional vision for the $22 million, 80,000-square-foot facility was well established long before ground was broken, however. Owner WakeMed and architect and interior designer FreemanWhite Inc., Charlotte, NC, had been working together since 1989, when master plans for this and another campus were first developed. “Part of what built our relationship was a clear understanding of WakeMed’s strategic goals, their particular markets, and to whom they were appealing,” explains Franklin A. Brooks, AIA, director of Healthcare and a principal at FreemanWhite.“For example, the Cary market is a fast-growing, affluent area, so we worked to be in sync with both the community’s needs and that of WakeMed,” he adds. The result is a first-class, yet unpretentious facility that brings comfort to patients while supporting the state-of-the-art healthcare backdrop.“We take care of clinical needs,” says Michael L. Jones, director, Operations, at Western Wake Medical Center, “but the facility doesn’t look clinical.” A healing calm embraces patients and visitors as they enter the Women’s Pavilion – one of three entry points into the medical center. In addition to soft colors throughout and a curved, fabric-covered ceiling, the lobby creates a sense of arrival, with easily distinguishable, yet subtle reception/waiting areas and clear-cut wayfinding to a diagnostic center. Security is covered as well – effectively, but without visual prominence, says Jones.Light punctuates the spaces to further enhance the center’s ambience. Fluorescent – 2x4 troffers – offer general illumination, while cans, coves, sconces, and pole lightings provide accent or sparkle light. Reflected light from the lobby’s large textured glass wall adds to the package of illumination, and operating rooms feature special lighting that allows no shadowing or dimness.To separate mothers’ rooms and provide a sense of enclosure and security, large center planters run the length of the common areas – one of FreemanWhite Principal/Senior Designer Will Bethune’s favorite features of the project. The vegetation produces a park-like setting where a mother can walk and feel at ease with her newborn baby and family members. Simulated skylights add to the natural feeling of the large circular garden walkway – “a unifying factor,” notes Bethune. Four gardens tucked around the buildings offer family members a chance to catch some fresh air beyond the excitement of the birthing process. “There’s a community spirit in having a baby that’s reflected in this design,” says Bethune.Labor/Delivery/Recovery (LDR) rooms are high-tech, but hide behind the comfort of home. The fetal monitor, medical gases, and nurse’s computer are hidden behind the headwall in roll-out cabinets or behind sliding picture systems, while a refrigerator, Jacuzzi, Dad’s queen-size sleeper sofa, and a rocking chair support family comfort. “Coaches corners,” featuring refrigerators, comfortable seating, and garden courtyard access, recognize that fathers also need a special place to retreat for privacy, contemplation, and refreshments.While the staff encourages a mother and her baby to room in, the 26 bassinets in the newborn nursery are secure and safe within (featuring the latest technology) and from without (an infant security system monitors and tracks each infant). Pairing art with the ultimate in science, the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery blends seaside murals with the Versalet infant bed (both an incubator and a radiant warmer). This area is not only insulated to minimize noise, but additional noise sensors ensure a quiet, peaceful environment is maintained for Preemies. To promote bonding, “we’ve designed a family-centered concept,” says Bethune. “We created larger, more private zones for each family – breaking the scale of the room down so it’s not so completely institutional.”The center’s two nurse stations provide ample space for ease of movement and comfortable workstations, but are positioned as a “pathway” crossing between the facility’s two patient common areas. As a result, nurses share space, equipment, and supplies – and information. These staff-oriented design aspects encourage greater nurse satisfaction and have led to enhanced patient care.Care drove the design of the facility’s Conference Center, which is comprised of six classrooms with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment designed for use by both patients and the community for health education classes. To ensure the utmost flexibility, a block of four classrooms can be opened to accommodate a group as large as 200.Understanding the issues of privacy, technology, staff needs, and user expectations: At the Women’s Pavilion & Birthplace, success is derived from having a little bit of “family” vision.Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.