Expectant parents face many challenges, and doubly so when the mother-to-be is at risk for a complicated pregnancy. With that in mind, the New York office of Perkins+Will drew upon environmental studies that point to nature as a powerful stress reducer when designing New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Carmen and John Thain Center for Prenatal Pediatrics. The result is a spa-like backdrop imbued with natural light and materials, as well as nature-evoking imagery.
A major hurdle for this project was actually a byproduct of an advantageous partnership. The hospital system joined forces with Columbia University Health Sciences in 2008 to establish a new model for prenatal pediatric care, specializing in treating pregnant women at high risk for complications, ranging from genetic conditions to anomalies. But both entities delivered services through a wide range of specialists in a mélange of poorly equipped facilities and disparate locations.
"Before we had this facility, our patients had to go to multiple locations to see many healthcare providers and it would often take weeks to find out what a sub-specialist thought about a condition," says Lynn Simpson, MD, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology for Columbia University Medical Center. Thanks in part to a generous donation from John Thain, CEO of CIT Group, and his wife Carmen, the department gained a new 12,000-square-foot center to bring together specialists, visiting physicians, and dedicated staff under one roof, easing anxiety for patients and medical staff alike. "Today, our patients can have an amnio, see a neonatalogist, and talk to a surgeon in one place," says Simpson.
Perched above the hustle and bustle of the city streets on the 12th floor of the complex's Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital building (see coverage of the hospital's pediatric emergency department), the center sets a soothing tone right off the elevators using earthy neutral hues and recycled-teak paneling. The reception area affords inspiring views of the Hudson River, an exterior courtyard, and the cityscape of low-rise buildings beyond. "The idea was to create a spa-like atmosphere through a calming palette and nature-inspired imagery, especially trees," says Chris Youssef, the lead designer on the project. The windows also serve a purpose of flooding the center's spaces—from reception and hallways to meeting rooms and offices—with daylight. In areas devoid of outdoor vistas, such as a conference room and exam spaces, blossoms and branches are visually referenced in printed glass and eco-resin surfaces.
The design team enhanced the relaxed, restorative environment by introducing carefully considered low-VOC materials, too. "To reduce known carcinogens or developmental toxins in the environment, we avoided products that included elements on Perkins+Will's precautionary list of materials and substances that have known or suspected health risks," says Perkins+Will Principal Carolyn BaRoss. Instead of covering upholstered benches and chairs with vinyl, for example, they used a leather-like polyurethane material that stands up to the hospital's rigorous cleaning protocols. They also selected a vinyl alternative for the floors that mimics wood flooring of spa-like settings while meeting durability standards. Another appointment that contributes to the spa ambience is detailing that evokes wooden mullions of Japanese paper screens for the glazed walls of office spaces. In lieu of using metal or hollow doors on enclosed spaces, the designers installed solid walnut doors with wood frames to add warmth.
The fruits of labor
Incorporating seven ultrasound rooms, two echocardiogram rooms, and space to conduct prenatal diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in addition to the multiple exam rooms and doctors' offices, the new facility has advanced the delivery of healthcare on multiple levels. Not only does the soothing environment reduce anxiety and enhance the comfort of both patients and staff, it also eases the workflow and improves efficiency.
"The process is a lot faster, which is key when time is critical," says Simpson. Since its inception, the center's volume of patients has increased significantly, according to the physician. "When we started in 2004, we saw five to six patients a month. Now we see 40 to 50 per month or more than 500 families per year." And thanks to its thoughtfully designed space, the Center for Prenatal Pediatrics—the only facility of its kind in New York City—is now ideally poised to serve this growing population of patients with an emphasis on holistic, patient-focused care.
Carmen and John Thain Center for Prenatal Pediatrics. Architect Perkins+Will. Client New York-Presbyterian Hospital/
Columbia University Medical Center. Where New York. What 12,000 total square feet on one floor. Cost/sf $290.
Jason Harper, managing principal; Carolyn BaRoss, design principal; Chris Youssef, interior designer, lead designeR; Victor Kung, senior technical coordinator; Matthew Cornett, project architect; Ji Hye Lee, interior designer; Steven Danielpour, director of specifications; Al Channer, project manager
Waldner's Business Environments
Shaw Contract Group
HBF - waiting area; ICF - resource area
Steelcase - main conference table; Davis Furniture Industries - resource area table
Terramai - lobby and waiting area