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Principal architect sitting in a “big chair” we found on our travels in downtown Madison
Principal architect sitting in a "big chair" we found on our travels in downtown Madison

Construction Update Blog:

Week of November 21

To build a structure as large as the South Wing takes a great team of folks. Behind the scenes are architects, engineers, construction leaders and their crews, subcontractors, vendors, interior and space designers, and patient care leaders, all working together to make the building the best it can be for our patients, families, visitors, and staff. Real planning for the South Wing started in January 2007, with a hardy and somewhat frozen crew who traveled to Denver, Seattle, and Portland to see children's hospitals in those cities.

That crew, which included two architects, two vice-presidents, two nursing administrators, and yours truly, set out from Little Rock on a relatively chilly but above-freezing day. We landed in Denver, which had about 8" of snow on the ground and snow drifts several feet tall. It was 4 degrees. As in FOUR, like below FIVE, and like way-below freezing. We thought we were going to become icicles before we left the airport.

After waiting on our bags for an hour (it was ski season, of course so the place was packed), we stood outside for what seemed like three or four days, waiting on a cab to the airport. One of us thought he had misplaced his backpack, only to discover it was on his back. What can I say, our brains were frozen! As all seven of us were huddled together, we watched in complete amazement as a girl walked by in cropped pants and flip-flops, in the snow. One of the nurses said, "That girl is going to lose a toe!". It was so cold that I think all of us slept with our coats on that night. I'd given just about anything for an electric blanket.

The next morning, we went to see the amazing Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, which was under construction at the time. It was so cool, and although one of us (who will go unnamed) slipped on the ice in his somewhat dress shoes, we made it through the tour without further incident.

From the hospital tour, we started developing ideas about the South Wing, including the large, inviting and open clinic waiting space, the large open atrium, and the inpatient room restroom tublets. The other features are probably pretty simple to figure out, but a tublet - what in the world is that, you ask? Well, it's a really cute little bathtub just perfect for a 3-year old to use to avoid the "scary" shower. I know my son, who is now 21, hated to take a shower when he was three, so this feature is included for our patients in our new Hematology-Oncology and Infant-Toddler Units in the South Wing. It's one of my favorite features in the inpatient units.

After we left Denver, we traveled to Seattle, where we found how greatly artwork and colors can impact a space and make a huge difference in the feelings you get when you walk into the space. We also discovered a really cool folding chair, parent settee/bench, and exam room layout that we used in our South Wing design concepts. Unfortunately, in Portland, we were stuck at our hotel because of snow. It was very beautiful but still very cold!

All in all, between January 2007 and November 2007, we visited 13 different hospitals across the country from Philadelphia to Atlanta to Chicago to Seattle. We brought back many concepts that we were able to use, and we have incorporated some of those into the South Wing. Good design always entails using what works, tweaking it to make it even better for your own situation or need. We, like our fellow children's hospitals across the nation, have a network of facilities design, construction, and maintenance professionals who share our successes so that we can all do great things for the patients served in our facilities.

One of my favorite pictures is from our Madison trip. It's of our principal architect, Kent, sitting in a "big chair" we found on our travels in downtown Madison. It shows a bit of the fun we've had while designing the newest addition to the ACH campus - enjoy!

Lori Howard
Director of Facilities Design & Planning
Arkansas Children's Hospital
Design Project Manager, South Wing

Arkansas Children's Hospital
1 Children's Way
Little Rock, AR 72202-3591

Call: 501-364-1100
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