Hamilton's Anna Shaw Children's Institute building receives award for best design, architecture

Pictured with the Anna Shaw Children's Institute in the background are some of the staff members of the facility.


Healthcare Design (HCD) recently announced the winners and finalists of its 2019 Healthcare Design Showcase awards program. The Anna Shaw Children's Institute will receive the Award of Merit (highest award) at the HCD Expo & Conference in New Orleans this November. The Healthcare Design Expo & Conference is the industry's best-attended event focusing on design for health care.

HCD is a magazine that serves an audience of architects, interior designers, hospital administrators, facility managers, engineers and key members of the construction community as the premier source of insight, information and inspiration for planning, designing and constructing new or renovated health care facilities. Through various channels -- magazine, website, events and social media -- the magazine actively engages that community.

The Healthcare Design Showcase awards program is in its 19th year of honoring the best design and architecture in the health care industry.

The institute building, which opened April 1, was designed by Earl Swensson Associates (ESa).

"We absolutely love our building -- the look, the atmosphere, the windows, the wall vinyls and all of the other details!" said Terri Woodruff, institute executive director. "The medical elements are hidden in the forest design so that, to the children, it looks like a treehouse in the forest. The wayfinding is working just as we had planned, and the children walk in and begin playing and exploring. They are calm and playful. The anxieties that can occur at a typical doctor's office are just not present."

Dedicated to the memory of local philanthropist Anna Sue Shaw, the institute is an advocate for the care of children who are experiencing the challenges of autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or developmental delays.

With design elements inspired by the style of a treehouse, the institute was designed to be considerate of children's differing abilities to tolerate light, sound and texture. The institute provides a unique environment with the overall goal to blend calming color and fun play for children of all abilities.

The structure's roof line and design are patterned after a treehouse. The outside of the building pulls together the elements of glass, wood and mountain stone in a color palette of browns, greens and blues to reflect the beauty of the north Georgia mountains. The walls of windows provide for natural light to warmly flow into the interior of the building.

The room designs include forest animals, birds or butterflies. Each of the rooms has dimmable lights. Some areas for care include the Swan Room, an aquatic therapy room for children with a swim tank. The Oriole room is used for occupational therapy. Feeding therapy can take place in the Finch or Falcon rooms in a booth that mimics dining out. Children can participate in speech therapy in the Sparrow or the Seagull rooms.

Children can receive physical or occupational therapy in the Treehouse Gym, a large 2,900-square-foot gym with colorful patterns on the floor, an adaptive climbing wall, an indoor slide and a fun track in the middle of the room. During pleasant weather, therapy can be enjoyed outside in the Treehouse Terrace, a therapy area with a roller slide, a spinning chair, adaptive pull-up bars, a sensory wave and a fun set of tympani drums.

"Our care team continually comments on the ease of the workflow due to the design," said Woodruff. "ESa did a stellar job!"

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