The Solarium

Location:  Syracuse, NY

Completed:  Winter 2018

Program:  Waiting Space

Construction Type:  Renovation

Awards:  2019 AIA CNY Award of Excellence

Can a physical space positively influence the healing process?

What are the qualities and characteristics of a relaxing and uplifting environment?

These questions are at the heart of the design for the Solarium located on the top floor of the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse.  The design transforms an underutilized 400 square foot viewing room into a respite for patients and families during what can be a difficult and traumatic time in their lives.  The Solarium draws from elements that not all patients get to experience; the beauty, texture and dynamism of the natural world by bringing the outside indoors. This approach creates a vibrant and joyful environment in what is a very confined and modestly sized room.

The Solarium simulates natural elements in a variety of ways.  The space is organized vertically into a series of layers starting from the surface of the earth up at floor level through the stratosphere and into space.  The textured garden-like flooring provides a comfortable surface for children to lounge.  To enlarge the sense of space within the room, this surface pattern expands outward through the large exterior windows and onto an outdoor roof terrace containing a green roof system and decorative railings.  A large sculptural red oak tree rendered with fall foliage located at the center of the interior, creates a large sheltering canopy, connecting these elements together.  The custom designed ceiling features suspended acrylic clouds and a digitally programmed sky which shifts from night to day; displaying various constellations and shooting stars.  Patients and families have the opportunity to lay on their backs under the comforting protection of the tree and watch the movement of the stars.   A large interactive video wall, located to the north, is programmed with a variety of nature inspired games allowing children to playfully catch rain or snow in the palm of their hands.

The layered quality of the space and overly saturated color palate is intended to express the richness and vivacity of the natural elements, creating a relaxing and uplifting environment.  Through the strategic articulation of a relatively small space, the design offers a variety of ways to experience the wonders of the natural world without ever having to step outside.  Our hope is that our efforts will help to positively affect the lives of patients and families at a time when it is needed most.