Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital Wayfinding and Graphics
Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, opened in June 2008 after a full interior renovation of an existing adult cancer facility. The wayfinding and graphics, planned by architecture firm Stanley Beaman & Sears in conjunction with the overall interior design, set a tone of high-quality, child-focused care.
Patients and visitors come to the hospital with a high degree of apprehension, and in certain instances, anxiety can be extreme. The design team’s goal was to serve the hospital’s young patients and their families by creating a vibrant and engaging environment that will allow them to easily navigate the facility, while reducing anxiety and promoting healing.
Basing their design concepts on research that has proven the effectiveness of nature-themed imagery in clinical spaces, the design team devoted each of six floors to a particular biome: aquatic, rain forest, grasslands, polar, temperate, and desert. Large-format digital imagery, educational information, framed artwork, and sculptures by local artists reinforce these themes. The larger-than-life focal graphics, designed with children in mind, incorporate playful “Did you know…?” facts that children can discover. The design team researched images and text extensively, and asked personnel from the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia to review the content for accuracy to ensure the highest educational quality.
The hospital’s top four levels are patient floors, each focusing on a different age level and featuring its own biome. To aid in wayfinding, color palettes, biomes, associated animal icons, and animal patterns were developed for each. Each patient floor is laid out in four quadrants, with four corridors emanating from a central nurse station. The team created four neighborhoods, each featuring its own animal indigenous to that floor’s habitat. The grasslands floor, for example, is divided into four patient-room neighborhoods called elephant, zebra, cheetah, and giraffe. Patient room plaques are enhanced with custom animal icons and patterns. Inside each patient room, one of three full-color, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall digital images for each biome further immerses visitors in the habitat.
“Many of the entries of projects intended for children this year often used garish objects and colors. This project bucked the trend and creates a calm yet interesting place. The use of colors is not overdone and the inclusion of play areas and exhibitions is subtle and designed sensitively.”
“An excellent example of a sophisticated healthcare environment that engages without being childish. The theme is graphically integrated in a harmonious manner throughout the building. The system provides clear wayfinding while also providing positive and engaging distractions for a sick child or healthy siblings.”
Ron White (lead environmental graphic designer), Chris Bowles (environmental graphic designer), Alex Petersen (junior environmental graphic designer), Mariapilar Gonzalez (interior design and construction administration), Bessie Stephenson (project manager), Dhruti Jakes (project architect), Doug Hawthorne (construction administration), Ina Sherman (furniture), Betsy Beaman (principal in charge)
Client Team: Paul Bouknight (director of facilities planning)
Associate Architect: JHS Architecture (construction documentation)
Image Resource Group (primary signage and graphics fabricator); Vomela (large-format graphics); Veritas and Interior Elements (lily pad resin panels); Custom Steel (lily pad custom steel brackets); Color Reflections (tropical patterned glass handrail graphics)