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Lawrence Group-Designed Springfield Clinic Offers Elements of Discovery, Positive Distraction to Ease Children’s Fears of Visiting the Pediatrician

Lawrence Group-Designed Springfield Clinic Offers Elements of Discovery, Positive Distraction to Ease Children’s Fears of Visiting the Pediatrician

St. Louis, MO – For many children, a trip to the doctor can be anxiety-inducing or even downright scary. Pediatricians’ offices have long tried to combat that fear by creating a softer and more child-friendly environment with toys, games and colorful décor, but what if the building itself was designed from the ground-up to directly address and distract from children’s anxiety — starting from the moment they pull into the parking lot?

This was the concept behind Lawrence Group’s design of the new $23 million Springfield Clinic pediatric center in Springfield, IL – a 41,500-square-foot facility consolidating multiple pediatric practices across Springfield under one roof, including general pediatrics, dermatology, lab and radiology services. The facility officially welcomed its first patients on Oct. 16, 2023. The general contractor on the project was O’Shea Builders of Springfield, IL.

The project came to the design team through a longstanding relationship between one of Lawrence Group’s business development professionals and the Vice President of Facilities, Real Estate and Construction at Springfield Clinic.

“They were looking for something unique and different that still supported their brand but had a new approach, and it had to appeal to a wide range of ages from newborns to young adults in their early twenties, so that’s where our expertise in ground-up construction and healthcare and hospitality design came into play,” said Lawrence Group Director of Interiors Julie Steffens, NCIDQ.

The building was designed inside out with pediatric patients and their caregivers in mind, employing an ‘on stage’ (patients) and ‘off stage’ (staff and providers) model that provides complete separation between these two groups for a seamless patient experience.

“It’s a trend in healthcare design that a lot of organizations are moving to from that experiential standpoint,” Steffens said.

The model was one that Springfield Clinic already had in the works at another facility under construction in Jackson, IL. Clinic administrators wanted to bring that same methodology and branding to all its clinics. With four pediatric practices across Springfield merging into one space under this new concept, the biggest question was whether it would work for all of them.

“From a culture standpoint and operational flow, there’s a lot of change that they are going to be going through for the good of the organization itself as well as the patient experience,” said Steffens.

Once there was buy-in from the various stakeholders, Lawrence Group proceeded to focus on creating a unique healthcare experience through interior and exterior design with a guiding principle of creating elements of distraction and discovery around every corner to reduce the stress of visiting patients.

“The whole idea of this project is about a journey starting with that ride to the doctor’s office and that connection between a parent and child or a caregiver and a child,” said Steffens. “Those elements of distraction start when they arrive on site with strategically placed walking paths for safety that have these moments of discovery embedded with footprints and leaves, and exterior sculptures even before they get into the interior.”

Lawrence Group Design Architect Kevin Le used multi-hued terracotta baguettes across the building’s façade, strategically placed to create an immediate visual impression as visitors pull up to and enter the building. The baguettes rise above the roofline on a slope, allowing the sky to peek through.

“They wanted to be different and bring the future to this area as opposed to blending with what is there, furthering their mission and their brand identity,” said Lawrence Group Architect and Project Manager Ganesh Sathyan. “We wanted to continue that feeling going inside, one surprise after another.”

Those surprises include large fish tanks, a slide that goes from the second floor to the first and a significant amount of artwork throughout the spaces, both on-stage and off-stage. Lawrence Group worked with St. Louis art consultancy TOC Artwork to curate a variety of both limited-edition and commissioned pieces, including two kinetic art sculptures installed on the exterior.

“TOC really listened and tailored the artwork selections to the providers’ vision. It’s pretty unique to Springfield and they did tap into some local artists in the community for a few pieces,” said Steffens. “The providers were so heavily invested in the art and that was the one piece where they could really personalize their spaces. Many of them use the artwork as a point of conversation to engage the patient and get them talking about something that’s familiar to them.”

The artwork was carefully selected to tie into the color story created by the interior design team, with six colors used as a means of wayfinding. Each clinic corridor is identified by a unique color, thoughtfully applied so as to not be overwhelming when entering the space. More neutral fixed elements are brightened with pops of color in the artwork, furniture and accents. The design concept also had to support Springfield Clinic’s brand, so the interior design team worked closely with the clinic’s marketing and brand experience team to ensure proper execution.

No project is without its challenges, and the biggest one for Springfield Clinic was its mid-pandemic timeline. With work starting early in 2020, the subsequent shutdowns caused substantial schedule shifts. Delays and shortages of materials also required advanced planning. The project’s general contractor guided the Lawrence Group team on acquiring certain materials, like metal decking, long before they were needed in order to ensure procurement. Other materials had to be fully substituted due to extensive delays.

“The pandemic taught us a lot and we experienced a lot of circumstances that forced us to think differently about how a project gets put together and gets built,” Sathyan said. “In healthcare, very little for us has been cookie cutter. Every client is different and every solution is different. What we pride ourselves on is the fact that we’re able to translate the dreams of our clients into reality. The client came to us with a vision to be a premier pediatric facility, and this is the end product.”

Throughout the entire design/build process, the Lawrence Group team kept the patient experience as its guiding principles for all decisions and solutions, knowing the profound impact the completed facility would have on the community’s youngest members.

“From the beginning, the entire team from the design team to the client side really came together and worked transparently and creatively. The final product is the result of trust, respect and team collaboration,” said Steffens.