Project Summary

Owner: Children’s Specialized Hospital

Project Completed: December 2007

Architecture: HKS, Inc.: Ron Dennis, Doug Compton, Gerry Hicks, Kathryn Barry, Michael Miller

Interior Design: Granary Associates: Paige Macfarlan (currently with Burt, Hill), Jennifer O’Shea, Jennifer Kenson (currently with Francis Cauffman)

Project Management: Granary Associates: David Bogle

Equipment Planner: Medquip International: Beth Hungerbuhler

Lighting Designer: Grenald Waldron, Lee Waldron

Construction Manager: Joseph Jingoll & Son, Inc.

Photography: © Blake Marvin, HKS, Inc. (exteriors); © Thomas Crane (interiors)

Total Building Area (sq. ft.): 124,000

Total Cost: $36.5 million

Treatment of children victimized by trauma or congenital anomalies is nothing new—but what if the building itself is brought into the rehabilitation process via its design? That is the concept behind the recently completed 60-bed, 124,000 sq. ft. Children’s Specialized Hospital, a full-service rehabilitation facility on the campus of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Architects at HKS, Inc. and interior designers from Granary Associates collaborated to design a structure with features appealing to children of all ages and physical conditions and their families. One floor each is devoted to adolescents and younger children, and patient rooms are laid out to meet the especially challenging needs of families visiting and assisting with their children’s care, often with two families to a room. Offering a photo tour of the new facility and insights into the decisions behind the design are Douglas Compton, AIA, Senior Designer for HKS, Inc., Jennifer O’Shea, Interior Designer, and Collin Beers, Principal, Granary Associates.

Jennifer O’Shea: We were asked to help create an identity for this facility to set it off versus other facilities on the Robert Wood Johnson campus. One way was to design a lobby with a sculptural ceiling with a mobile and interesting wallcovering and flooring patterns.

Collin Beers, AIA: One unusual feature is that it is lit from the perimeter with lights that slowly change color throughout the day. People are surprised as they come and go during the day to see the lobby change from blue, to orange, to green, and so forth. It’s a way of preventing the space from becoming static.

O’Shea: There are two inpatient floors—for teens and for small children and infants, respectively—and they’ve been designed with appropriate colors and equipment. After shadowing the facility’s staff for three days, we learned what works and doesn’t work. The color palette for the teens is softer, for example, and sensitive to a large number of patients with brain injuries. We also stayed away from using canary yellow in the nursery spaces based on color theory in that area.

Beers: We were basically directed to use as much color as possible but not in inappropriate areas or in vast quantities. We used high-volume colors for social spaces, staff spaces and waiting rooms. We were more cautious in areas where chronic patients spent a lot of time, such as patient rooms or treatment rooms, muting the colors by as much as 50% in spaces serving brain injury patients, for example.

O’Shea: The design for the young children’s floor was more whimsical and playful, with toys and fun furniture. We also did a reverse-shape, interlocking type of idea with patterns for the soffits at the footwalls and floors at the headwalls. The teen floor is more geometric and less playful, with space for video games and for large equipment that is often used in their care.

Douglas Compton, AIA: Designing the patient rooms as semiprivates was a challenge. It was felt that these kids are here for extended periods of time and like to be with other kids their age and help each other, so semiprivate works well. But there are times when you have to accommodate two families—one near the window, the other near the door, and we went through a lot of iterations of this. One thing we did was to place the bathrooms between the rooms and run things this way in sequence.

O’Shea: It was an interior design challenge, too. We had to build in a lot of flexibility, with fixed versus mobile furniture carefully planned, depending on the need for family space.

Beers: Families are also encouraged to use family spaces outside the room if their child is not in an acute stage. For the rooms themselves, though, we didn’t have standard criteria because the hospital deals with such a wide variety of patients and abilities.

Beers: These chairs are intended as sculpture and occupy a walkway connecting facilities. They encourage people to pause and enjoy them or view the outdoor garden they face through a glass wall.

O’Shea: This whole area allows for donor opportunities, with framed cutouts and interactive features for kids, such as flowering daisies or spreading butterfly wings. Toward the end behind a sculptural glass wall is a meditation area which is softer and gentler in color and appearance.

O’Shea: HKS did a great job introducing natural light into this space, which is below grade. In the interior design we tried to create something that would be appropriate for kids in therapy but still fun.

Compton: Most therapy pools in other facilities are rectangular and pretty functional, but we asked, why not liven it up and have some fun with this? We designed it with lots of curves and made a point of bringing in natural light with a skylight that, in shape, follows the curve of the building itself. The whole idea is to bring as much life and positive feeling into the patients’ experience as possible. HD

For more information on HKS, Inc., visit For more information on Granary Associates, visit

Healthcare Design 2008 December;8(12):50-58