The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is the first phase of the masterplan by Foster + Partners to modernize the university’s healthcare campus and improve quality of care. The masterplan aims to stitch the campus together by revitalising the surrounding landscape and opening up the hospital to create a better healing environment. Dedicated to saving children’s lives, the design of the new hospital focusses on making the often traumatic experience of being in a hospital more humane for the young patients and their families.
The 140-bed children’s hospital is conceived as a bright, uplifting environment. Colour is introduced at lower levels, articulating the building’s function as a children’s hospital through the transparent façade, and double height atrium ‘lightwells’ bring light and views into the interior, opening up views of the tree canopy and landscape beyond. Playrooms for children and comfortable living rooms for families are situated throughout the building to offer a respite from the intensity of the experience. The bedrooms are designed around the needs of the patient, with each incorporating a large picture window to create a visual connection with the outside world. The rooms also contain generous family zones for the parents to stay with their children overnight. Integrated brise-soleils provide protection from the sun and cast ripples of light and shade on the interior.
With eight operating theatres and specialist imaging laboratories, the hospital is the focus of the entire healthcare campus. Maximising the therapeutic qualities of the natural setting, the lozenge-shaped patient tower extends into a new public park, which faces an existing football stadium. Breaks in the towers reduce their scale and allow daylight to penetrate the site and hospital buildings. All vehicles have been moved into the basement parking, and at ground level, the building is transparent and highly permeable, with public spaces and community facilities.