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Cultivating joy in pediatrics

by Caroline Tate, AIA

Life science design
Banner Health | Banner Playzone

In the summer of 2022, our team was tasked with the rewarding opportunity of creating a central pediatrics care area for Banner Health where patients from infants to 18-year-olds could disconnect from the hospital environment and escape to a healing oasis. 

From early schematic design, we worked closely with Banner Child Life Specialists and the campus planning staff, holding a series of stakeholder meetings that integrated feedback from staff, patients and families. The conversations sparked a visioning experience on how to develop a dual-purpose environment: one where Child Life Specialists can work with patients on education and that provides enjoyable activities while integrating comfort and medical play for child development. 



Creating versatile care 

From the get-go, our goal was to create a versatile, engaging space that incorporated neutral design elements with colors of intrigue and biophilic principles. Upon entrance, the universal check-in area immediately introduces familial support with a sibling center that provides engaging activities for families of patients. As users move through the space, they have the option of exploring a quiet zone that allows patients to be tutored by the hospital teacher and focus on academics without being distracted.  

Nearby, we designed a toddler and preschool play zone specialized for younger patients. The ballet barre and mirror support the growth of younger patients as they develop their motor skills while supervision upon entry ensures the children aren’t wandering through other spaces. These zones include medical play areas as well as places for Child Life Specialists to utilize toys to help children understand the treatments they’re receiving. These spaces are intentionally enclosed to help patients feel safe and prioritize the patient and Child Life Specialist relationship. We also proposed a sensory room dedicated to children with specific behavioral needs. This space provides patients with fiber optic lighting, interactive toys, and customized furniture to give them a space to sit and refocus.  

Banner Health | Banner Playzone

In the media center, young children can disconnect with a theaterlike experience. Adjacent to the media center is the teen zone designated for older kids where they can play pool and video games. The space is designed to be more closed off, giving teenagers quiet and space to be their authentic selves. 

The art and science zone, the biggest area, features a large double-height space that is geared towards older children. The larger space is multi-purpose, can serve as an event space, and borders the exterior, offering an external connection to an outdoor play area. The natural light and connection to nature in this zone are design elements that are scientifically proven to promote healing. Additionally, we worked with local artists to select meaningful artwork inspired by the desert landscape. 

Fostering wellness 

The Banner Playzone is a space where wellness truly happens. Patients and staff were at the forefront of each consideration with details meticulously designed through the eyes of a child. From the safety of the type of wall hooks we utilized to the cleanliness of materials, we prioritized the children’s health and well-being. In the hospital, children are getting medical treatment that is both emotionally and physically draining for patients and their families. These spaces allow the children to distance themselves from the realities of the hospital, escaping to experience joy and be themselves.  

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