A Natural Refuge

Designers with Perkins + Will turn to nature to create a soothing environment for terminally ill patients and their families at the Willson Hospice House in Albany, Georgia.

by Elianne Halbersberg

We all know about the ability of nature to aid in the healing process, but at the Willson Hospice House in Albany, Ga., designers with Perkins + Will have harnessed natural views and elements to create a sense of refuge for terminally ill patients and their loved ones.

The 34,000-square-foot, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver facility sits on 12 acres of a 120-acre site, and is the first healthcare facility to receive certification as an Audubon International Silver Signature Sanctuary. The property hosts a variety of indigenous species, a walking trail, healing gardens, an outdoor chapel, natural pond and bird sanctuary.

Inside, the Willson Hospice House is organized into a series of three “pods,” each of which contain a central living area around which six inpatient rooms are grouped. Each pod has a kitchenette, chapel, sunroom, children’s area and outdoor terrace. Individual patient rooms offer window-seat beds for overnight visitors, double doors so that patient beds can be rolled outside, large storage areas for personal items, overhead ceiling fans, Volker beds and adjustable reading lights, and headwalls behind the beds to conceal medical outlets and equipment.

Ila Burdette, architecture and planning, and Amy Sickeler, interior designer at Perkins + Will, were responsible for taking Willson Hospice House from concept to reality. The two women have worked together for 20 years, implementing the pod concept into the world of hospice care. “People in assisted living and nursing do better in small groups than in units of 40 or 60,” says Burdette. “That’s working its way into more and more projects, and we’re glad about that.”

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