University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital opened the doors to a relocated and renovated behavioral health unit in Minneapolis, in November 2012. The design team at BWBR worked with the staff at Amplatz to create a space that better aligned with the newly constructed main hospital.

The renovation project involved a mid-20th century academic medical building with a narrow footprint and double-loaded corridor. Little daylight filtered into the interior, which housed muted colors and heavy doors closing in hallways and rooms. The design challenge was to create a unit that would be conducive to a variety of spaces, let in abundant daylight, and accommodate multiple group settings without the need for removing or altering the structure of the unit.

The 19,600-square-foot facility's lobby and family intake room feature soothing colors, wood tones, and flowing benches. The whole unit is a presentation of transitions, from patient rooms to hallways, group areas to therapy rooms. Design elements allow children to enter these spaces at their own pace, have some personal control, and remain engaged. While counseling rooms are designed to calm and comfort, patient and activity rooms arouse and energize with bold and cheerful colors. Textures throughout the space help patients find a sense of reference in a world that may have seemed out of proportion before treatment.

The unit builds on the main hospital’s theme, Passport to Discovery, but provides variations to appeal more to the patient who suffers from mental illness. For instance, instead of using animal icons for wayfinding and room identifications, the Child-Adolescent Behavioral Inpatient Unit utilizes images of nature, including tulips, trees, stars and moons.

The renovated behavioral health center’s five private rooms, 15 semi-private beds, and 12 private intensive treatment rooms are located on one floor, while a sibling unit, the Adolescent Chemical Dependency/Dual Diagnosis Unit, is under construction on a lower level. The project also includes re-commissioning of a therapeutic pool and the creation of a secure outdoor play area.