In its innovative design for the Pegasus Pediatric Clinic, the five-person interdisciplinary design firm Lichtraeume, based in Berlin, aimed to create a kid-friendly environment that would make young children feel happy and secure, despite the fact that it is a doctor's office. The firm focused its energies on developing child-centric spaces in which four of the five senses—sight, sound, touch, and smell—would be engaged. Central to the design for this sensory experience is the dynamic use of colored light.

Located in a postwar structure in the heart of Berlin and contracted by AOK, Germany's largest health insurance company, the clinic was designed to tell the story of Pegasus, the mythological winged horse. “In every room, there's an image of a horse, so the children are always accompanied by an image they trust,” says Susana Ferreras, an expert in environmental and architectural psychology and a principal at Lichtraeume. To support the narrative are wavelike shapes in the floor made of green and brown linoleum, intended to mimic grass and sand. Organic-shaped columns, glowing with colored light, also contribute to the fantasy landscape, as do other curving forms and furnishings. One of these is a “virtual” pool of fish, which is projected onto a low table and is programmed to interact with a child's movements.

“The project uses color in the form of light to influence not only the moods of the people who work in the clinic, but also the moods of the children,” Ferreras says. In developing a project, the members of Lichtraeume merge their expertise in architecture, industrial and lighting design, economics, environmental psychology, and electrical engineering. As a result, the firm's environments optimize technology and are finely tailored to the users' specific needs. In the Pegasus Pediatric Clinic, Ferreras's background in child psychology factored heavily in the outcome of the design, including the forms, materials, and colors of light that were used to shape the 4,305-square-foot facility.

Relying on current research that identified environmental characteristics that nurture children, the designers used specific colors of light to comfort the patients emotionally through the sense of sight. “Children respond positively to colors like pink, yellow, and green,” Ferreras says. These three colors dominate the space, while colors that provoke negative effects were avoided. “Red has been shown to be irritating to children, and blue, being a cool color, can exacerbate certain illnesses such as the common cold,” she explains.

Other aspects of the design influence the children emotionally using the other senses. The designers introduced smell with essential oils from fruit and flowers such as oranges, lemons, rosemary, and lavender, which have been shown to relieve anxiety in children. Introducing the sense of touch, they included pliable materials and curving forms to reinforce a feeling of closeness that makes children feel secure. And to introduce hearing, they incorporated more than 200 customized soundtracks that range from guitar and vocal music to the sounds of birds and falling water, all intended to produce a calming ambience. “Music keeps us in touch with the vibrational world both outside and inside ourselves,” Ferreras says.

The “vibrational” quality of light also played into the design team's decision to use light rather than paint to introduce color. To create a homogenous quality of light, the designers used only diffused illumination, “so that you feel you're in the light, not under it,” Ferreras says. This quality of light is created by incorporating only surface-mounted LED arrays placed behind a range of diffusing materials, such as Barrisol, and deployed in a multiplicity of ways.

The entire lighting scheme was developed using three types of surface-mounted LED linear array fixtures: cool and warm dynamic white strips with color temperatures that range from 2500K to 6700K and provide a museum-quality color-rendering index of 95; RGB full-color strips with optimized color binning; and approximately 12-inch-by-12-inch panels that house 16 LEDs. Near the windows, the designers connected the strips to dynamic daylight-dependent controls, which activate shading devices to compensate for light gain and loss, create a sense of daylight at any given time, and control heat. A collection of 300 approximately 12-inch, 3.5W to 4W RGB LED strips were surfaced-mounted to a central pole within the tensile columns and are programmed using a DMX system to gradually change color throughout the day. Approximately 12-inch-square light panels, each with an output of 21W, were used in the back-of-house spaces such as the dressing and maintenance rooms and the kitchen.

    The designers used specific colors of light to nourish the patients emotionally through the sense of sight. “Children respond positively to colors like pink, yellow, and green,” Susana Ferreras says.

“Our concept was dedicated to efficiency,” says Lichtraeume's lighting expert Fatih Gercek. “The goal was to create maximum impact for the lowest energy price. And although we used light to fulfill our aesthetic parameters, the light had to fulfill the functional parameters first.” Light levels, as specified by the Deutsche Institute Normung (DIN), dictate minimums of 500 to 750 lux on doctors' examination tables, 500 lux on counters and work surfaces, and 150 lux in circulation areas. “They couldn't believe that we could complete the project with 100 percent surface-mounted illumination and meet the needs of a demanding institution,” Gercek says. “But we did it, and now the DIN is rethinking their lighting standards to incorporate not only lux and lumen as parameters, but also life span, energy-efficiency, maintenance issues, control, and even ‘emotional' aspects.”
According to Gercek, the entire lighting load for the facility is between 4,000W and 5,000W, including the bathrooms. Touch-panel controls at the reception area, plus temperature and shading controls throughout, all have a simple, easy-to-use interface. Motion sensors in the bathrooms also keep energy consumption low.

A post-occupancy evaluation will be conducted in September, but so far the response to the facility by both staff and community has been overwhelmingly positive since the clinic opened in March. “Doctors want to work there because of the environment—the clinic is receiving more employment applications—and families are happy with the environment, too,” Ferreras says. In fact, so delighted are the children with the clinic's interiors that instead of going to the doctor's office with a sense of trepidation, they often want to remain in the playful, colorful space rather than go home.

Project: Pegasus Pediatric Clinic, Berlin
Client: AOK Nordost, Berlin
Architect: Dörschner Architekten, Berlin
Interior Designer and Lighting Designer: Lichtraeume, Berlin
Project Cost: †3,300,000 (approximately $4,771,802; complete renovation project of the building including interior and lighting design for pediatric clinic, gynecologist office, and ear, nose and throat department.)
Lighting Cost: †250,000 (approximately $361,500)
Project Size: 400 square meters (approximately 4,305 square feet)
Watts Per Square Foot: 1.16
Manufacturers: Custom-designed LED illumination in architectural surfaces and furnishings by Lichtraeume and Richter.