Inside the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children


Birmingham's New Beacon

The HKS-designed Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children in Birmingham, Alabama sets a new standard for pediatric care by playing with light and color.

By Adam Moore | Photography by Blake Marvin/HKS, Inc.

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    A blue line embedded in the terrazzo flooring helps patients and families navigate to treatment areas and nurse stations, while swivel seating from Knoll, benches from Carolina and carpeting from Mannington Commercial create an uplifting, friendly environment. View larger

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    Mirror chips included in the terrazzo flooring and elements such as this large art glass wall, designed by renowned artist Guy Kemper, provide a feeling of light and reflection in the BRHFC. View larger

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    Rubber flooring from nora was chosen for the hospital’s two towers because of its cushioning and acoustic characteristics. Bright colors and local artwork add to the hospital’s reputation for quality care. View larger

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    Family waiting areas filled with curved seating from Carolina, flower-shaped benching from Arconas and lounge chairs from Arcadia provide caregivers and family members with a variety of options for decompression. Family members can also enjoy beautiful views of downtown Birmingham, thanks to the building’s extensive glazing. View larger

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    Dauphin Aspetta lounge chairs and digital wall art form a waiting space in the Quarterback Club tower. The print on the chair is from Designtex, while the vinyl on top is from CF Stinson. Designers used almost 200 different fabrics in the project. View larger

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    The lobby is anchored by a series of Martin Brattrud-created benches along the wall, as well as striking lighting pendants from LumenArt. Red circles in terrazzo flooring play off of the Children’s logo, but also indicate where patients can find help. View larger

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    Patient rooms feature Nemschoff sleep sofas with printed patterned vinyls and polyurethanes to add color while still maintaining cleanability. View larger

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    Patient rooms feature Nemschoff sleep sofas with printed patterned vinyls and polyurethanes to add color while still maintaining cleanability. View larger

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    This movie room provides a number of different seating options for children, including Allermuir Tsunami chairs with curved backs and the SEGIS Flores bench at front. View larger

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As the sun sets over the medical campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the glass panes and colored panels of the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children (BRHFC) come to life, sparkling in a way that the surrounding brick buildings cannot.

Whether seen from afar—perhaps from the new Railroad Park up on 17th Street—or from one of the several curvilinear bridges that connect the building with the rest of its neighbors, the BRHFC’s colorful exterior represents new hope for families who have had very little of it lately.

Designed by HKS in partnership with architectural firm Giattina Aycock Studio, the BRHFC maintains a sharp focus on light and color within its glass-walled spaces. From the giant skylights in the lobby to the clerestories found in patient bathrooms to the mirror chips in the building’s terrazzo flooring, light is harnessed at every opportunity and quickly put to work, distracting children and uplifting the spirits of everyone else.

For Doug Compton, AIA, principal and senior designer with HKS, the decision to incorporate copious amounts of glass into the design was a no-brainer for reasons of patient and family well-being (“I’m a firm believer in the notion of natural light and views to the outside as a great stress reliever,” he says), but it also helps differentiate the 12-story building from the rest of the UAB campus and ties it to the growing downtown area just a few blocks north.

“This was kind of a major expansion of their facility, and they felt that they needed to begin to establish their own identity,” he says.

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