Places That Work: Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital

Liberal use of wood helps relief stress, creates a sense of being at home

The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is a place that works for many reasons. It’s packed with positive distractions for patients and their guests; spaces where families can interact on a relatively normal basis while receiving quality medical care. The interior is distinguished by the liberal use of real and simulated wood throughout.

Researcher David Fell tells us that looking at wood grain de-stresses us. And because wood is often used in residential environments, seeing it in a medical context can make a space seem more home-y.

Sue Ann Barton, a principal at ZGF, the architects for the Lurie, explained the distribution of the real and simulated wood throughout the structure: Natural wood dominates the public spaces, including in the chapel, administrative spaces, and family resource center where health issues can be researched. Reclaimed wood benches are placed in the Sky Garden, an upper floor enclosed atrium. Real wood is used in the kitchens and for built-ins in the family rooms, including on patient-room floors.  For maintenance reasons, where antiseptics are used to clean surfaces, realistic, simulated wood-like laminates were specified for doors and floors near patient rooms. 

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Courtesy Sally Augustin

The Lurie has many wonderful views over Lake Michigan; these views also help calm patients, family, and staff. 

Of course not all hospitals have such a fortunate location. But any hospital can use real and simulated wood to de-stress patients, their families, and staff and to make spaces seem a little homier. Seeing people’s faces at the Laurie, showed me just how important calming, homelike elements are to everyone in healthcare facilities.



Sally Augustin, PhD, is a principal at Design with Science. She is also the editor of Research Design Connections and the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009). Sally, who is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, can be reached at [email protected]

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