exterior of hospital building

The Hospital Unlocking a Design Formula for Better Family Care

Spaces that promote comfort and kinship help level up patient care at a Charleston medical facility for women and children.

Designing Charleston, South Carolina’s newest comprehensive care hospital was a collaborative effort. In 2014, 26 teams of nurses, physicians, architects, and designers mapped out plans for the Medical University of South Carolina’s Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion. Once completed in 2020, the facility introduced a new level of patient-oriented care to women and children. 

“We wanted an environment where people felt like they belonged—in a place where no one wants to find themselves,” says Mark Scheurer, M.D., the Medical University of South Carolina’s chief of children’s and women’s services. “We wanted them to feel safe, invited, and as normal as possible.”

interior of pediatric care unit
Consolidating women’s and children’s health care in a single facility, the Medical University of South Carolina’s Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion offers heart and liver transplant services, along with an 82-bed neonatal ICU unit, and South Carolina’s only Level 1 pediatric trauma center. COURTESY HALKIN MASON

 For that, they commissioned health-care experts from Perkins&Will’s Atlanta and New York offices, and Charleston’s McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture. “It’s a health-care project and a commercial project, but still we wanted to create a welcoming, familiar place,” says Aiko Tanabe, senior interior designer at Perkins&Will. “We tried to create small moments for children to discover and create a wow factor.”

For mothers facing congenital issues and premature births, the architects created spaces twice the size of a typical room, so mother and child aren’t separated, as is usually the case. “The baby is in an incubator and the mother is in a family space to keep that family together,” Scheurer says. “It reduces complications, and the stay is actually shorter.”

Sited prominently on a peninsula where the Ashley River meets the Cooper, the 11-story hospital serves as a gateway to the city. Its curved facade offers panoramic views from a seventh-floor porch, and its ground-level park is used by patients, family, and community members. A three-part rooftop deck is designed for respite, gathering, and play.

More from Metropolis

Inside, soft green and blue tones inspired by surrounding Lowcountry marshes soothe patients and visitors alike. “Charleston is pretty colorful, and the project is informed by nature and environment,” Tanabe says. 

interior of hospital waiting room, children playing

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]