As a whole, the NewYork-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center in Manhattan houses three distinct programs: ambulatory care; an integrative health and well-being center; and the newest addition, a hospital for women and newborns.

Largely constructed following the opening of the first two programs in 2018, the Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns, which opened in August 2020, offers comprehensive care for mother and infant. This includes care before, during, and after birth, such as specialized prenatal care and neonatal intensive care.

However, it wasn’t a planned tenant from the beginning. Rather, the women’s hospital was considered along with the idea of additional ambulatory care to fill the building’s top six floors of shell space.

But when neighboring NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s Greenberg Pavilion sought to expand capacity for its women and newborn services, the organization looked to those Koch Center floors as a convenient and natural fit for a new women’s hospital.

“Relocating to the building across the street allows us to grow the service and provide a physical environment that matches the exceptional patient care,” says Hillary Shaw, vice president of the Alexander Cohen Hospital for Woman and Newborns and the David H. Koch Center in New York.

Comprehensive services at Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns

Spanning 246,500 gross square feet, the new Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns includes ultrasound and antepartum outpatient services on the 12th floor; labor and delivery on the 14th floor; a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with MRI and an operating room on the 15th floor; and three floors dedicated to inpatient postpartum care on floors 16 to 18.

The facility is designed to accommodate 7,000 births per year. The hospital nearly triples the organization’s previous space for mother and infant care and includes:

  • 75 private antepartum and postpartum rooms (up from 68)
  • 60 newborn intensive care beds (up from 50, and including 42 private units)
  • and 16 labor and delivery rooms (up from 11).

Clinical spaces include five C-section operating rooms, 20 triage/prep/recovery rooms, eight private antepartum testing rooms, and 15 ultrasound rooms on the 12th floor.

Patient flow mapping

The project was a collaboration between several firms that delivered the earlier Koch Center projects, including HOK (New York) as project architect and Ballinger (Philadelphia), which served as medical architect and healthcare planner; interior design was by HOK with Ballinger.

Similar to the Koch Center’s existing design, the women’s hospital offers an oasis from the urban environment while addressing the specific needs of its patients and families.

“[For mothers and their families] it’s an exciting situation to be in, but quite stressful,” says Sara Ridenour, associate principal at Ballinger. To help address that, the project team crafted a clear path to help patients get from start to finish with ease.

“We choreographed the experience for all parties via flow mapping,” says Ridenour.

After arriving at the drop-off area—designed as a quiet, internal avenue where patients can avoid the stress of a busy city street—patients are greeted in the main lobby of the Koch Center and directed to dedicated elevators that stop only on floors 12 through 18.

Notified that a patient is on the way, a staff member will be waiting upon arrival in the sky lobby, located in the corner on each floor and offering views of the city. The patient is escorted to either a prep/recovery room for a scheduled C-section or triage. After giving birth, mothers are then transported to the postpartum unit via dedicated elevators within the hospital.

Patient-centered design strategies

Another connection between the new hospital and the established Koch Center is the continuation of the onstage/offstage operational flow. The building’s L-shaped floor plate provided a natural split to place offstage services, including the staff corridor, on the inside of the L.

Public and patient spaces are on the periphery with access to views of New York and plenty of natural light (with the exception of the 12th floor, where the corridor is on the perimeter).

A focus on patient-centered care, including private patient rooms and family support amenities, was among five “Departmental Visions and Goals for Maternity and NICU” outlined for the project by NewYork-Presbyterian, Shaw says.

Every patient room has three zones, including a caregiver zone from the entrance to the bed; a patient zone at the headwall; and a family zone, which is typically against the window.

“We were very deliberate in moving to a private model,” she says. “Private rooms allow for greater bonding between the new family unit where the mother, partner, and newborn can bond together in the postpartum or NICU rooms. Partners or parents can sleep over and be more involved with the care of their loved ones.”

Designing family respite spaces

Ridenour says private areas for family are prioritized, too. “Sometimes family members need respite, too; and reducing stress and providing comfort for mother, baby, and family is part of the project vision,” she says.

For example, every floor has a family lounge, which is centrally located near the entrance for easy access. On the labor and delivery floor, there’s a partner’s lounge that offers a place for retreat when needed.

The NICU floor houses a shower, laundry, and a sibling child life room. The postpartum floors include multipurpose education rooms and a family dining room on the 16th floor where families can have a celebration dinner.

Supportive staff spaces

Staff spaces in the core include a layered zone of three adjoined areas including a nurses’ station/administrative area, a large team room/touchdown area, and a smaller dictation room for physicians in the back.

These three connected spaces are encased in glass, which allows staff to have access to natural daylight coming in through the patient rooms. A sliding glass door between the spaces allows the team to open up the rooms for larger meetings.

“There are levels of privacy and collaboration that we made as flexible as possible,” says Ridenour. Decentralized nurses’ stations are located between every two rooms throughout the hospital and between every room on the NICU floor.

Planning NICU services

The NICU patient rooms are arranged to operate as distinct neighborhoods. Twelve rooms on the west side can be divided into one or two neighborhoods and 38 rooms on the east side can be organized into two or three neighborhoods.

Each neighborhood has a dedicated entry point to eliminate travel through one neighborhood to get to another. In addition, an offstage corridor is provided for staff and supplies to reduce noise levels in the patient area and minimize conflicts with family flow.

“I think one thing that’s really great about our NICU is we brought all of the services to the floor, so we don’t have to transport these critically ill babies except for in very unique circumstances,” says Shaw. “By bringing the MRI and operating room to the floor, we’ve really integrated care into one location for the family.”

Interior design touches

The project team sought a timeless aesthetic to align with NewYork Presbyterian’s desire to create spaces that won’t look outdated over the long term, says Christine Vandover, senior project interior designer at HOK.

“It’s that timeless feel but also minimal and clean; it has a New York City quality,” she says.

Among the features are stone floors in the sky lobbies and wood-like materials used throughout the hospital, including a darker walnut-like wood in the labor and delivery rooms. A lighter ash in the postpartum rooms distinguishes the two areas as well as marks a mother’s transition from one to the other.

Another key was using diverse lighting fixtures in different areas to create varying effects. For example, linear light fixtures in labor and delivery rooms provide the brightness that’s needed there. The postpartum rooms feature round ceiling lights that have the feeling of a skylight in the room and can be dimmed.

The hospital’s art program is another defining element of the interior design, adding color and vibrancy to the predominantly muted color palette, which helps achieve a serene, calming environment, as do furnishings in rich but subdued blues and warm auburns, Vandover says.

“As part of the artwork selection for the Alexandra Cohen Hospital, we very intentionally invested in women artists,” Shaw adds. The the project team worked with Salon 94 to select the works that are displayed throughout every floor including patient rooms. “It’s beautiful, and it’s quite diverse,” Shaw says.

Hospitality approach in healthcare

Some of the communal spaces, like the multipurpose education rooms and the family dining space, have been “sitting vacant for the time being” due to COVID-19, Shaw says. However, feedback on the hospitality approach has been positive.

Specifically, patients are appreciative of the privacy, large rooms, art program, and abundant light incorporated throughout—insight that confirms the organization’s decision to fill the shell floors with the women’s hospital was the right one.

“[It’s] allowed us to offer the very best care for our patients in a bright and nurturing environment that prioritizes comfort, safety, and privacy,” Shaw says.

Planning and design of the new NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns in Manhattan was informed by feedback from focus groups and interviews with new mothers and their partners as well as hospitality research and virtual tours conducted in partnership with HOK’s hospitality designers.

“New parents want to feel cared for, comforted, and de-stressed in this special life moment,” says Vandover. “Hotels are designed with similar ideas in mind and focus on the total guest experience. That’s what we wanted to do here, to give the space that same feeling of specialness—a total guest experience.”

One of the insights learned was that giving patients and families autonomy of choice in how and where they spend their time helps to put people at ease, says Vandover. In response, the project includes family areas on every floor and waiting areas in the sky lobbies that have great views of the city.

User insight guides design

During interviews, new parents expressed a desire for comfort and control, which led to details like longer sleeper sofas for partners and family members, designated space for luggage to help reduce clutter in the room, more seating in postpartum rooms, and soft reading lights near patient beds.

“When a mom is nursing in the evening or late at night, they can have this really soft light on and don’t have to turn on the overhead lights in the room,” says Vandover. “That gives them some control in the middle of the night.”

A particular aha moment from the interviews was about “education and connectivity,” Vandover adds. “The moms have been in the room and they’re kind of looking forward to getting out and meeting some other new moms to connect with and share their experience.”

In response, education rooms are located on each postpartum floor where moms can go to learn important new skills as well as socialize with others.

Many mothers also offered feedback on corridors, which are often used by patients to help ease labor.

The women mentioned being bored when walking the halls, so the project team designed the corridor walls on the labor and delivery floors to feature acoustic panels in geometric shapes to help reduce noise and give mothers something of interest to look at. The flooring also features a pattern to help set walking goals for those in labor.

Joann Plockova is a freelance writer who splits her time between Jupiter, Fla., and Prague, Czech Republic. She can be reached at

Project details for NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns:

Owner: NewYork-Presbyterian

Total building area: 246,500 gross sq. ft.

Architecture: HOK

Healthcare planner: Ballinger

Medical architect: Ballinger

Interior design: HOK with Ballinger

Structural Engineering: Thornton Tomasetti

MEP/FP Engineering: Syska Hennessy Group

Construction Manager: Turner Construction Company

Art: Salon 94

Flooring: Forbo, Johnsonite, D. Magnan, Floorazzo, Casalgrande Padana, US Ceramic, Stone Truss

Acoustic Ceiling: USG, Armstrong World Industries, Decoustics, TOPakustic, Pyrok

Integrated Ceiling System: Huntair

Wall Protection: Acrovyn, ProTek Systems, Forms + Surfaces, Koroguard, Korowood

Walls: Carnegie, Arper, Benjamin Moore, Florida Tile, Laminam, Daltile, Ann Sacks , Stone Truss

Wall Base: Roppe, Johnsonite

Millwork: 3 Form, Danzer, Kaswell, Formica, Nevamar, Laminart, Wilsonart, Dupont,

LG Hausys, ABC Stone, Forbo, Duracron

Window Treatments: MechoSystem, Ecoveil

Furnishings: Keilhauer, Humanscale, IOA, Herman Miller, Human Scale, Nienkamper, Halcon, Sandler Seating, Datesweiser , Halcon, Clarus, Nucraft, KI, ASI, Spec, HBF, Martin Brattrud, SixInch, Emeco, Hasegawa, Magis, Spec, Halcon, Futrus, Tuohy, Bernhardt Design, Magnuson, Martin Brattrud, Keilhauer, Davis, Nemschoff, Midmark, Rubbermaid, Simple Human