Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Art and nature bring a holistic approach to healing at Packard Children's


It was the founding vision of Lucile Salter Packard to marry modern science and technology with a holistic approach to healing body, mind and spirit.

That vision was clear when the hospital first opened in 1991, and it is unmistakably expanded in the design of the new Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, which is scheduled to open in December. The new building combines Stanford Medicine's advanced medical care and scientific research with a design that provides access to nature, including the integration of gardens and natural light as well as the depiction of nature though art.

"When my mother founded this hospital, she envisioned a place where children and families could receive truly healing care," said Susan Packard Orr. "She saw the power that nature had to heal and uplift. I'm proud that we have carried her vision forward, with world-class sustainability and holistic elements throughout the new hospital. Everything we do at this hospital will have an eye to ensuring that generations to come will be healthier."

The project's architects began by considering the experience of patients as they arrive at the hospital. Visitors to the new building will enter a light-filled lobby with soaring two-story ceilings. A floor-to-ceiling glass wall leads to the Emerald Garden, an imaginative space that incorporates a sea-themed play area and an amphitheater for events.

Proximity to nature is evident throughout as families move around the building. Each patient care floor has separate patient and staff patios, and every patient room has a window with a planter box.

The hospital's extensive art collection is designed to engage families, feed the curiosity of children and encourage exploration of the building's setting within Northern California.

"You're always trying to engage your child in something when you're in the hospital," said Diane Flynn, a member of the Family Advisory Council who provided feedback on some of the building's design elements. "When my son had to fast before his surgeries, we would walk the halls to try to keep his mind off his hunger. We'd stop at the art on the walls and play 'can you find' games. Bringing in art and other elements of interactive play like this to the new hospital was crucial."

Interactive experiences


The diverse collection features sculpture and painting, as well as digital interactive experiences to draw children in. It ranges from a 30-foot kinetic sculpture of the hospital's "leaping Lucy" logo in the entry garden to 2-inch glass displays of hummingbirds, fish and other species outside the hospital's sanctuary. Framed art hangs in each patient room, and on the first floor, a richly colored panoramic California ecosystem mural with interactive features teaches children about the state's diverse wildlife.

Navigating any large building can be difficult, particularly for families with a sick child. Hospital visitors get help finding their way through a system designed around Northern California's eco-regions, including its rocky shores, redwood forests and mountains. Stanford University ecologists and hospital patients helped select two animal "ambassadors" endemic to each floor's eco-region. Sculptures of each ambassador are tucked into stone niches along the main entrance and are repeated near the elevators and in colorful signs on each floor.

Additional directional art includes mosaic tide pools embedded in the lobby's Rocky Shore terrazzo floor as well as 100 aluminum-cast bird sculptures that appear to be flying up the main staircase. From the welcome desk, families can be directed to "follow the birds upstairs."

On each ascending floor, four signature sculptures between the existing hospital and the new building serve as wayfinding tools and engaging destinations for patients and families. These include a giant mama bear with her cub, a life-size cow made from donated toys, a mother and baby hadrosaurus in pink bunny slippers, and a family of colorful robots.

The hospital's first-floor sanctuary is a space for families to find solace and support through quiet reflection or group ceremonies. Its circular design wraps the indoor space around an enclosed healing garden, visible through floor-to-ceiling windows. The garden offers a meditative labyrinth and private nooks, punctuated by hedges and a soaring bronze sculpture of a parent and child.

Inspiring play

The largest of the hospital's five gardens is the Dunlevie Garden, named for its benefactor, Elizabeth Dunlevie, chair of the public spaces committee and longtime board member. It features animal and nature installations that are representative of California's eco-regions, including a puma den, a gophers' burrow and a hollowed-out redwood tree trunk with climbing stairs.

"The garden was designed to inspire imaginative play as our patients and their families explore the various sculptural elements and plants," Dunlevie said. "While we have provided paths of animal footprints between the elements that they could easily follow, the goal is for each visitor to make up their own games, stories and paths."

One path leads to a sundial built into the ground. It's surrounded by life-size sculptures of native animals — a fun place for younger children to crawl atop a tortoise or a sea lion, and for older children or adults to stand as the gnomon that casts the shadow to tell time.

"We set out to transform the patient family experience with this new facility," said Jill Sullivan, vice president of strategic space planning and general services. "The roles of nature and art in this hospital are intrinsic to that mission as well as honoring the legacy of our founder. We are thrilled to be able to offer these spaces of beauty and healing to our community."

Footer Links: