When the University of North Carolina Hospitals demolished its Women's and Children's buildings in order to build two expanded structures covering 440,000 square feet, the task facing Dallas-based architecture firm HKS was to improve access and wayfinding for patients and visitors, and to create a stress-reducing atmosphere that appealed to all ages. The new facilities were mandated to connect at multiple floor levels with the existing hospital buildings, and faced site constraints on all four sides. The lighting system, which was one of the final projects worked on by Craig Roeder before his death in 1998, proved a key element in producing uplifting and differentiated environments.

Architectural and Lighting Solution

A glass and steel concourse connects the two existing and two new hospital building entrances, each with its own distinctly designed canopy, signage, and lobby interior. The children's facility is colorful and playful. 'The owner was very willing to use color in the lighting to differentiate the spaces,' says HKS principal Jeff Stouffer. 'The Women's and Children's Hospitals are located next to each other. We wanted to make the Children's public areas playful, but not childish, so that adults could relate to them as well. The Children's lobby is bolder, with more reds and yellows than the Women's Hospital. The use of geometric shapes-circles, squares, and triangles-adds playfulness.'

Each building function has a corresponding lighting concept integrated into the architecture. Bright yellow neon tubing formed into overlapping geometric shapes adorns the wall behind the information desk. Indirect fiber optic lighting, fitted with color wheels, accents the curved ceiling coves, and changes color throughout the day to keep the multi-level concourse lively. Incandescent downlights provide general illumination and enhance the striped patterns of the terrazzo flooring. Off to one side of the lobby, a kinetic sculpture and theatrically lit stage for performances add to the uplifting atmosphere.

The adjacent Women's Hospital uses the same materials-stone, wood, and terrazzo-but in a style reflecting elegance rather than playfulness. The lobby centerpiece is an ornate glass ceiling backlit with neon to resemble a skylight, which lifts the eyes upward. 'Backlighting the ceiling creates the illusion of dome height, where we couldn't do a dome,' Stouffer explains. 'Neon lasts a long time, making it cost effective to use.' Wallwashers and downlights bring out the rich tones in wood-paneled walls and terrazzo patterned floors.

In both hospitals, window walls and skylights have been placed in strategic locations so that as the day progresses and the natural light changes, the perception of the lobby changes as well, adding to the kinetic feeling of the interior. 'The staff loves being in those spaces,' remarks Stouffer, 'and employee satisfaction is becoming an issue in hospitals today.' The desire to attract qualified staff, and create welcoming environments for patients and visitors, has prompted designers of healthcare facilities to look beyond their field for inspiration. 'Today, elements of hospitality design are being carried over into the healthcare arena,' Stouffer explains. 'For example, you might see dramatic entrances with a grand piano or fireplace in the lobby. The experience of checking in is made to feel more like checking into a hotel.'

Lively, uplifting spaces that aim to brighten the patients' and visitors' experience while in the hospital facilities, all accomplished at about 1 watt per square foot, place the North Carolina Women's and Children's Hospitals on the cutting edge of healthcare lighting design. wanda jankowski