Kids Designing New Children’s Hospital

Chicago’s new Children’s Memorial Hospital being designed by patients.  At one of the initial meetings of the Kid’s Advisory Board of Children’s Memorial Hospital, 17-year-old Kendall Ciesemier told the architects designing the $915 million hospital in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood that they needed to add something to the plan. It was essential there be an outdoor space, a place where patients could escape the hospital.  The architects resisted, telling Kendall that it would be difficult to design a space that could withstand the extremes of heat and cold.  No, she persisted, “we have to have windows open and sun beating down.”

Kendall is one of a dozen teenagers on the board, all of whom have spent time in hospitals and are dealing with life-threatening conditions or are chronically ill.  Kendall, who suffers from biliary atresia, was adamant about the space because, at age 11, she spent a summer in the hospital following two liver transplants.  “When I was well enough, my dad would sneak me down to the hospital courtyard at night,” she said.  “It was so peaceful and calming to be outside.”

The hospital’s planning team was sympathetic.  They added two outside “pocket gardens” at either end of the 5,000-square-foot enclosed Crown garden that juts out 11 stories above Superior Street.  “I was so impressed that my small idea turned into an enormous aspect of the hospital,” Ciesemier said.  “They took me seriously. That was awesome.”

The former Children’s Memorial, officially the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is scheduled for completion in summer 2012.  “These children have a unique view as to what ‘works’ and what doesn’t as it relates to the environment, food, therapy and other matters,” Ann Lurie noted.

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