The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is a far-reaching community hub employing over 15,000 people and completing over a million patient encounters every year. Currently the hospital cafeteria, serving the entire building, is an unappealing space that lacks consideration beyond minimum functionality. Reimagining the cafeteria involved activating the space as a retreat from arduous hospital life. The redesigned cafeteria is full of wonder, layers of experience, and collage-like playfulness. The project balances many coexisting, yet disparate factors: serving the varying needs and abilities of the occupants, having both functional and imaginative aspects, generating excitement without overstimulation. Programming became the most significant functional challenge and was solved through the medium and principles of collage. A collage patterning exercise became the basis for the plan in terms of character and flow of the different zones. Zones are distinct yet overlapping, social spaces being concentrated along an undulating path with private spaces tucked away. Movable screens establish boundaries between social and private dining as well as between traditional and express serving. These screens pivot to allow individuals to control their personal level of privacy or for staff to section off areas for cleaning or other purposes. Seating is specific to each zone and intended to allow for varying levels of sound dampening, visual privacy, and social interaction. Aesthetic decisions were based on research suggesting that sights, smells, sounds, and tactile qualities of nature assist in recovery and increase general happiness and wellbeing. The boundary between interior space and nature is unclear, with planters reaching into the space alongside the imitation of natural forms. Existing skylights were reworked as reflecting pools, refracting sunlight in a dynamic way. An interior playscape of colossal, collage-like plants transports children into an alternate reality where they encounter nature in a new way. The exterior space became an inviting oasis where patrons interact with water, plants, sky, and each other. The entire interior and exterior space are connected through specific natural forms that are scaled up and down depending on their application. These forms become ceiling elements, screen patterning, furniture, and shading. Gone is the sterility of the hospital setting, occupants are transported into a healing garden where plants grow and shrink, envelope and invite, become fantasy and become real. Grounding the project is an ethos of human-centered design, aiming to reinvent preconceived notions of a hospital experience.
Interior Architecture- Large Scale (>5,000 sf)