The Kids Advisory Board

When it came time to design the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, some smart, out-of-the-box thinking people there created a Kids Advisory Board to make sure they got it right.

They put together a group of 12 teenagers, all of whom had put in serious hospital time due to chronic or life-threatening diseases and asked them to speak out about features they would like to see incorporated into the design.

And they weren’t kidding either. The Planning Team, including Bruce Komiske, the project’s design and construction chief, welcomed all of their ideas and even sent the pricey architects of this $915 million dollar hospital back to the drawing board after the Advisory Board complained about the lack of outdoor spaces in their plan.

So the design was revised and two pocket gardens were added on either side of the 5,000 square foot enclosed garden to allow the kids a place to go to escape the beeps, noises and hustle and bustle of the hospital. They wanted a quiet, peaceful, natural setting and that’s what they got — even though the adults had argued for interactive activities and artificial nature sounds like crickets to be incorporated into the space.

The Kids Advisory Board gets to review the proposals sent in by the city’s cultural organizations for the public and family spaces as well.  They rejected the idea for a large oversized sea lion painting to go in the emergency treatment room. The kids said the huge sea lion was too scary, given that the patients in the emergency treatment room are in pain and on drugs. So the planning team is going to go with smaller-scale animals in soothing, pastoral settings.

We love the idea that teens have been made such an integral part of the design of this hospital. Nobody knows better what will help a child cope and heal in the hospital than another kid who’s been there himself.

We wish them all the best when they open their doors in the summer of 2012.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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