Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

HDR | Gensler with Clive Wilkinson Architects


The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the #1 destination for people with the most complex and severe conditions - from brain and spinal cord injuries to stroke, cancer, and amputation. The 1.2-million-square-foot facility is the first-ever translational research hospital in which clinicians, innovators, scientists and technologists work together in shared spaces, surrounding patients, while discovering new advancements and applying (or translating) research in real-time. This unprecedented approach means patients have 24/7 access to the brightest minds and latest discoveries, as well as the best opportunity for rehabilitation and recovery. Concepts integral to translational health drove planning and design. Here, research doesn't just coexist with care; it is fully integrated into the clinical environment, engaging patients in the process. Technology, likewise, is embedded throughout. Clinicians and researchers measure every aspect of patients' activities to mine data that will help improve outcomes faster. Every inch of the building is care; every inch is research.

The ability labs combine clinical care and research in a shared space to shorten the feedback loop, driving the discovery of new solutions to advance human ability. There are five of these applied research and therapeutic spaces, and each has a unique configuration based on a targeted function and the type of research taking place therein: Think + Speak Lab, Legs + Walking Lab, Arms + Hands Lab, Strength + Endurance Lab, and Pediatric Lab. The ability labs provide for active and visible "front stage" patient work with clinicians and researchers as well as private "back stage" space for analysis and planning. The Design Team prioritized concepts that would support a culture of hope, optimism and achievement, which were then incorporated into the custom designs of furniture and therapy equipment.

Thoughtful spatial design converges with bold, motivational environmental graphics to support the hospital's brand. Almost every environment - from gardens and public spaces to corridors and patient rooms - was designed to enhance therapy and encourage recovery. Design elements play a vital role in patients' therapy and recovery. For example, because patients are often lying on their backs, ceilings became a significant design opportunity. Curved walls allow for more natural and "frictionless" movement, especially for people with physical impairments. The east and west corridors are punctuated by vistas with expressive graphics and offer spectacular views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Visual access to restrooms and support facilities, along with sweeping views of the city, are oriented to encourage patients' movement and progress.

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