Natural Healing

Children’s Health Centre, Surrey Memorial Hospital, Surrey, British Columbia

Stantec Architecture Ltd.

Located in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, the fastest-growing municipality in British Columbia’s lower mainland, a much-needed expansion to Surrey Memorial Hospital provides specialized services in paediatric, adolescent and maternity care, and addresses the rapid pace of change in technology and service delivery. The Children’s Health Centre focuses on family-centred paediatric care and progressive infant developmental care, and the advancement of a sensitive health care culture.

The location of the expansion within the hospital campus allowed for the development of a unique entrance to the Centre at the end of a narrow courtyard, tucked away from the main site entry. The entry courtyard is marked by an arching and curving heavy timber canopy, the massive forms of which recall Eastern European organicism. The canopy and adjacent forecourt establish the playful character of the Children’s Health Centre and introduce the project’s theme, “delight in nature.” The sinuous path to the entry is lined with four sculptures of children at play, each a different colour of the rainbow. The rainbow motif is repeated in the multi-coloured fritted glass panels shielding the lobby windows, and again in a rainbow pattern embedded in the lobby flooring and in a variety of wayfinding clues on the upper floors.

The undulating entry canopy also introduces the curving geometry of the lobby’s forms, which sit in contrast to the rectilinear main building. While this strategy succeeds in creating a distinct identity for the Children’s Health Centre within the larger hospital complex, it raises questions about the need for greater architectural continuity on a campus that already lacks design coherence.

Upon entering the main lobby, children are greeted by a brightly coloured frog set against a nature-themed donor wall of similar intensity. A palette of bright spring colours, including spring green on the lobby ceiling, are intended as reminders–along with the rainbow theme–that growth and renewal follow adversity.

Following the theme of “delight in nature,” swallow outlines are cut into the curving rainbow beam that supports the lobby clerestory, a motif repeated in the clips securing the banister panels of the lobby’s main circular stair. Due to the wide range in ages of the children who frequent the hospital, the nature theme was preferred to the use of cartoon characters or other decorative elements that would appeal to only the youngest patients. And while the complexity of the multiple curvilinear forms and intensity of colours might seem a bit contrived and cacophonous to the adult eye, they’re in keeping with the intense visual stimulation preferred by their intended audience.

Beyond the animated lobby, the hospital’s design is less exuberant, but still incorporates elements suited to its user group. At the ground level, a combined Paediatrics Inpatient and Outpatient reception area immediately off the lobby contains a play space overlooking the entry garden. The Adolescent Psychiatry Unit is treated more discreetly, with its own entry and a secure outdoor courtyard. The remainder of the ground floor comprises the surgical suite and the Intensive Care Unit.

The second and third levels are organized in a series of linked L-shaped wings arranged symmetrically around a core containing support spaces. The L-shaped arrangement helps to reduce corridor length, facilitate wayfinding and create opportunities for access to daylight and views to outside. The second level accommodates the Family Birthing Centre, with 38 LDRP (Labour, Delivery, Recovery and Post-partum) rooms and a Special Care Nursery. Colours here are more subdued than elsewhere in the hospital. The third floor accommodates surgical inpatient rooms with one, two or four beds, with bay windows providing daylight to each bed location. Small lounges and outdoor terraces accessible from each of the short corridors provide opportunities for the patients’ families to socialize and exchange information and support. MP with notes from Bruce Haden

Client: Fraser Health Authority (formerly South Fraser Health Authority)

Architect team: Bruce Raber, Mike Alivojvodic, Ray Pradinuk, Patricia Wall, Richard Brown, Bonnie Maples, Dennis Flandez, Derrick Payne, Rita DeSerranno, George Yano

Structural: Bush Bohlman & Partners

Mechanical: Keen Engineering Co. Ltd.

Electrical: R. A. Duff & Associates Inc.

Landscape: Vagelatos Associates Landscape Architecture Ltd.

Interiors: Stantec Architecture

Contractor: Bird Construction

Area: 30,400 m2

Budget: $48.5 million

Completion: March 2001

Photography: James Dow unless noted