The new 117,000-square-foot Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain (MIDB), delivering neurodevelopmental clinical care, research, and education and advocacy services, opened in November 2021 on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Prior to its opening, these specialty services for early childhood and adolescent patients were spread across the university campus, which created a less-than-ideal experience for patients.
“Why would you have these separate entities all over campus and move a child from place to place when you could have a one-stop shop?” says Dr. Michael Georgieff, a newborn intensive care doctor and co-director of the MIDB.
Three years ago, the various stakeholders providing these services—including clinical departments involved in the assessing and treatment of patients with disorders from autism to rare diseases, child and adolescent psychiatry, and child neurology—came together to transform a former, two-story Shriners Hospital near the university’s main campus into a destination for centralized services.
Designed by HGA (Minneapolis) and built by Knutson Construction (Minneapolis), the new institute comprises a pair of two-story buildings connected by an elevated skywalk, with one building housing clinical care and research with education and workplace functions located in the other.
Rebecca Kleinbaum Sanders, vice president and principal, healthcare practice group, at HGA, says the project team looked at different stacking models for the clinic/research building, including splitting the building’s two floors by patient population.
In the end, the team decided to centralize clinic services on the first floor and research on the second to maximize flexibility. A two-story arrival atrium cuts through the building, creating a visual connection for families and staff as they move between the floors.
The project team took a strategic approach to reuse as much of the existing structure and layout as possible and save the budget for moves that would have the most impact, Sanders says. For example, early on, the project team decided to reconfigure the entrance from the parking garage to the central atrium to improve navigation and wayfinding.
Another upgrade included replacing the original Spandril glass on the exterior windows with vision glass to drive more daylight into the facility.
“We made those decisions with the client on how to use the limited budget for the most benefit of everyone in the building,” says Meredith Hayes Gordon, vice president and practice group leader, arts, community, and education group, at HGA (Minneapolis).
“No matter how you enter the building, you know exactly where you need to go and where to find that waiting or reception area,” Sanders says.
To support the center’s new work model and foster synergies across functions that had rarely shared physical space before, the facility features an open work environment for staff and shared break rooms that are strategically placed near different programs to maximize opportunities for positive “collisions,” Georgieff says.
Research and user engagement feedback guided the project team in choosing colors, materials, and furnishings that would support the diverse sensory needs of patients. For example, families shared the importance of a variety of seating arrangements with child-friendly furnishings.
In response, the center offers multiple settings for waiting, including a colorful playroom overlooking an outdoor playground as well as a calm room with muted colors and subtly textured wallpaper for those who prefer a quieter space.
Additionally, the signage, custom artwork, and color palette are inspired by nature, with a river and tree theme used on the first and second floors, respectively.
“We looked across all ages, backgrounds, and the neuro-diverse spectrum to consider how does this space welcome and embrace all,” Gordon says.
Anne DiNardo is executive editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at [email protected]