Honor Award

The Crown Sky Garden: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Mikyoung Kim Design, Boston, MA
Client: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Project Statement

Situated in the heart of downtown Chicago, the Crown Sky Garden is a sanctuary for patients, families, doctors and administrators within this 23 story Children's Hospital. The commitment to this sky garden was built upon a growing body of scientific research which links access to natural light and contemplative spaces to reduced patient recovery time. This regenerative project offers a new paradigm for healthcare design that integrates healing gardens as part of the health care regiment within these institutional environments.

Project Narrative

This is a happy and artistic space—a space for all. Kids love it and that's what’s important. The health concerns inherent with a hospital governed the choice of materials and the result shows that this landscape architect really knows how to design. It's very playful with innovative use of materials and colors that would appeal to children.
—2013 Professional Awards Jury

The Family Advisory Board and Lurie pediatric hospital transformed this five thousand square foot area on the 11th floor into an inspiring healing garden. The resulting design creates a vibrant sense of place and demonstrates innovative thinking for child centered healthcare and healing environments. Recently described as a hospital within a garden, this new pediatric center in Chicago, along the Magnificent Mile, is partnering with the Center for Health Design to examine the impact of hospital design on stress levels in hospitalized children and their parents in the Crown Sky Garden.

The Sky Garden is a rich experience of bamboo groves, custom recycled resin panels, natural stone and reclaimed wood from the region. Children activate the garden through direct engagement and orchestrate sounds of nature throughout this greenhouse space. Situated within a glass green house, this garden is defined by a series of interactive elements of light, and sound within the colored resin walls and the locally reclaimed wood elements. Meandering groves of bamboos frame linear marble fountains adjacent to contemplative views of downtown Chicago through floor to ceiling glass windows. The garden incorporates a range of individual and collective spaces that meet the needs of children with immune deficiencies, while offering a place for discovery and innovative engagement. As a member of the Pebble Project, a group of 50 hospitals worldwide, the Lurie Children's Hospital is currently utilizing the Crown Sky Garden as a case study to further understand the healing benefits of these garden environments.

This comprehensive plan of the main garden (11th floor) and tree house on the 12th floor was designed to meet several programmatic goals; to give inpatient children an opportunity to engage Chicago's storied historical and natural environment, to meet the stringent requirements of the infectious disease control board to create a safe environment for children with immune deficiencies, to create a range of interactive opportunities that mitigates stress, and to provide access to natural materials and light. The commitment for the Crown Sky Garden was based on psychological and physiological research which found significant restorative properties from nature and contemplative gardens. Within five minutes of engagement, studies have shown that there is a significant lowering of blood pressure, heart activity, electrical brain activity and muscle tension. Design of the Crown Sky Garden began with contemplative spaces for stress reduction, screening spaces with sounds of water and bamboo. Social support and physical therapy work was also designed into the programmatic design. The most active area was located in the center of the garden with bi-weekly performances and community engagement activities. The final design allows for programmatic flexibility, creating opportunities for physical movement and exercise, as well as a variety of contemplative individual and vibrant collective social experiences.

In order to contribute to the overall projects sustainability efforts, the Crown Sky Garden incorporates a significant amount of recycled and renewable material. The Light Walls are constructed with resin panels that are created with a minimum of 40% recycled content. The wood log seating elements and wood flooring in the tree house are locally reclaimed materials and utilize natural non-toxic finishes. The terrazzo flooring utilizes recycled glass aggregate.

Light Wall + Bamboo Groves

The colored resin wall is comprised of a series of folded and interlocking custom eco- resin panels that transform in color from aqua to saffron colors. These gradated colored panels are an effective anti-microbial surface and create a chromatic color flow as participants move around the walls. In the center of the garden, LED lights within the core of the retaining walls are choreographed to transform images of water as children activate the sensors; from calm tidal movements to intensely colorful bubbles.

Water: Marbles and Bubbles!

Hand stacked glass marbles organized in a chromatic fashion (with colors such as blueberry freeze and goldfish) contain a bubbler fountain that emerges from the planters and creates a dynamic color scheme that is animated with light in the evenings. Two sinuous walls of fluid effervescence weave through the bamboo groves and meet the stringent requirements of infectious control by containing all water. The bubbling experience create a sound barrier for these two contemplative spaces that frame the main garden.

Reclaimed Wood: Sound Logs: Fizz Plop! Slosh

Reclaimed wood sculptures are located in the garden rooms and act as play elements and benches. The local material, repurposed from salvaged wood from Chicago's storied history, includes wood planted by Frederick Law Olmsted for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the Chicago Children's Zoo. These solid logs were kiln dried in layers and annealed with layers of resin that contain and preserve areas of rot and insect life. Within each of the logs, the resin layers are lit from within to create luminous benches in the evening. Bronze hands were cast from pediatric patients in the Children's Hospital and are the sensors that activate the sounds of water that emanate from the speakers carved into the reclaimed logs.

Founders Tree House

Located on the 12th floor above the main Sky Garden and framed by the bamboo canopy from the garden below, this intimate space is designed for inpatient children with serious immune deficiency conditions that prevent them from engaging the main garden. This protected space has a series of longitudinal cross sections of reclaimed wood that connect wall to floor surfaces and have an infill of hickory end grain panels. The sections of wood are a selection various species, from Cherry, Maple, Ash and Black Walnut varieties. As the wood wraps up the glass walls, printed surfaces of sky, birds, and leaves emerge through the wood panels.

Project Resources