Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 85
By Edward Keegan, AIA
Interiors feature bright
colors and abundant white
surfaces on the floors,
walls, and ceilings that
help distribute ample
A cutting-edge rehabilitation hospital in the
"The building supports patients with
Streeterville neighborhood of downtown Chicago,
challenges," Gibson says. "It's about the ease
the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab delivers sophisticated
of finding things. Spaces are wider, more open."
care in a highly creative setting.
Even hallways enable multiple uses because they
Designed by HDR | Gensler in association
are wider than the norm. "Eight feet is the standard
with Clive Wilkinson Architects, the 27-story,
width in hallways," Trenolone remarks, "but it's
1.2 million-square-foot tower meets complex
the minimum at AbilityLab," where they expand
programmatic needs. The team was assembled
up to 13 feet. "We wanted to make them spaces,
for its interrelated skills, leveraging HDR's
not hallways," Gibson says. "They are places
healthcare know-how, Gensler's high-rise
where staff and patients can do therapy, have
and workplace expertise, and Wilkinson's user
experience savvy. Los Angeles-based EGG Office
"Aspects of the building needed to reflect
joined the design team for the interior surfaces
the challenges of the real world," Gibson continues.
and graphic identity. Previously known as the
"The Activities of Daily Living Studio is set up like
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the organization
a traditional Chicago apartment-a tiny bathroom
wanted its new building to facilitate translational
with cabinets below the sink and a kitchen with
medicine, a practice in which professionals discover upper cabinets. There are all these challenges.
and apply research findings in real time.
The AbilityLab is about preparing patients
Upon arrival, the public is directed to the
for the real world."
10th-floor sky lobby, which includes two exterior
Individual patient rooms are clean and
roof gardens, a chapel, a conference center,
spare with warm light-colored wood built-ins, but
and the executive office suite. Curved edges
the overall palette is intentionally neutral. "Patients
and surfaces create what Wilkinson calls
are here for weeks or months at a time," Gibson
explains. "It's about populating the space with their
"The client had a clear vision of the building's
own things-plants, photos, and personal effects."
elements," says Anne Gibson, a Gensler design
"The building has taut lines, but [the]
director. "It's a Venn diagram of science, patients,
AbilityLab is about a disruption in life," Trenolone
and care." This concept is most readily apparent
says. This idea is represented across the 26-story
in the five AbilityLabs, each centrally located on
glazed exterior by the folded planes that mark
separate floors and targeting specific therapies:
the AbilityLab locations on the north elevation.
thinking and talking, walking, arms and hands,
More important, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
strength and endurance, and pediatrics.
raises the stakes for healthcare design. Gibson
"Since the labs were such a novel concept,
adds, "It doesn't look like a hospital." c
we could not find furnishings in the marketplace
and therefore custom-designed almost all the
furniture within [them]," Wilkinson explains.
"Screening was carefully conceived to maintain
openness while providing some privacy." The
approach was so revolutionary that Wilkinson
received patents for a few of the unique components.
White is the dominant interior color,
but bold, mostly orange, graphics are deployed
in the public areas, including the lobby, sky lobby,
covered roof gardens, and AbilityLabs. "The designs
by Wilkinson and EGG are specific to each lab,"
notes Tom Trenolone, HDR design principal
and creative director.