The design of Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA aims to create a compassionate healing environment that is as warm and inviting as a hospital can be. That Mattel has achieved such an atmosphere is clear from the moment families enter through the hospital’s dedicated entrance off of Gayley Avenue and are greeted by an interactive Welcome Wall, and it continues to prevail on the hospital’s third and fifth floors.
“We found that we harmonized very well with I.M. Pei’s concept of human-scaled space,” says Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, physician-in-chief of Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “In pediatrics, this is particularly important because kids can be intimidated by large spaces.” A butterfly canopy marks the Mattel entrance. The child-friendly décor of the main lobby features the 60-foot-long, 12-foot-high multimedia Welcome Wall of photographs, children’s art and video content displayed on eight screens. The messages include stories of hope, healing and recovery from patients and their families, as well as a view port into which children can peek and then find their own image projected on the screens.
The corridors upstairs are divided into three separate pods, with no grouping of patients larger than 26. Even within that group, a smaller-feeling environment is created by replacing the long-hallway arrangement of traditional hospitals with a quarter-circle design. Age-appropriate playrooms are bright and sunny, with views of the ocean on a clear day, and a large terrace on the fifth floor allows children to enjoy the outdoors. The theme of family-centered care is reinforced throughout the third and fifth floors. Nearly every patient room is large and private, with ample accommodations to allow parents to “room in” with their child. “It’s a natural instinct for a parent not to want to leave a sick child,” says Dr. Judith Brill, director of pediatric critical care at UCLA. “If parents can sleep and also can feel comfortable in that space, they are going to be more effective in helping to nurse their child back to health.”
Likewise, the 22-bed neonatal-intensive-care unit is built to ensure plenty of space around each baby’s bed so that healthcare providers can work in partnership with parents. The dim lighting and relative quiet are in tune with the needs of the tiniest patients, explains Dr. Sherin Devaskar, chief of neonatology. Dr. Devaskar is also excited by the unit’s geography. “We are now one of the few institutions that has the specialized capabilities of a children’s hospital juxtaposed with high-risk labor-and-delivery obstetrics,” she notes. “Being located between the two is a wonderful position from which to be able to interact with the mothers and fathers before the babies are born, and to be at hand in case a baby is in trouble. At the same time, if we need complex care for these babies, we are right next to the pediatric specialists as well.”
Beyond the warmth projected through the design and features of Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, there is the healing effect that comes from the huge windows that allow natural light to pour in. For Dr. McCabe, who recalls many times working in a hospital and not knowing if it was night or day, it all adds up to a move that he calls “one of the most exciting times of my career.” - Dan Gordon