Child abuse is a growing public health crisis in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2020, after calling the state’s child abuse and neglect hotline, more than 78,000 local children participated in the investigation. Children’s playgroundIt is a professional trauma treatment organization that covers the overall continuous care of Kansas City, and plays a vital role in advocating the social and economic well-being of the most vulnerable residents (children under 8 years of age) in the community.
The organization was established in 1978 to support the development and mental health needs of young children suffering from abuse and neglect. The plan includes a day treatment plan for infusion therapy, outpatient treatment, and key training for parents and community members. The topics include child development, age-appropriate discipline, and indicators to help children cope with trauma and child abuse.
As The Children’s Place expanded significantly over 40 years, its operations remained in the same building, which began to hinder the organization’s ability to serve the growing patient population. In addition, the building lacks natural light and does not have enough classrooms, which means that due to space constraints, key projects including treatment are carried out in the corridors.
In May 2016, The Children’s Place reached out to help, hookThe Kansas City studio designed a new home to provide services for more patients; adapt to comprehensive programming; and create a well-designed environment for children to learn, play and heal.
An early vision meeting with The Children’s Place leaders, staff, and board members encouraged the setting of goals for the new facility, which occupies a series of former school buildings just a few blocks from the original site of the organization. Starting from the first impression exercise, participants identified four key user groups—children, employees, families, and communities—and how they want each group to enter the space. This process helped establish the goal of the architectural form, as the words “welcome”, “safe”, “inspiration”, “healing” and “hopeful” were repeatedly mentioned.
Next, use the point voting exercise to help establish a clear design aesthetic. Dozens of images of each space type, including classrooms, treatment rooms, indoor play spaces, entrances, etc., are all nailed into a room. Participants were given sticky points—three greens and two reds—and asked to place them on images they liked and disliked, and then shared their reasoning with the group. This process helps to reach a consensus on the look and feel of the design, and creates an opportunity to discuss the unique considerations of this patient group, such as safety issues and visual connectivity.
An adjacency exercise in which the team considered the relationship between different projects and departments and provided information for the space project. Since the previous building did not have a dedicated clinical treatment space combined with day treatment, the team discussed the importance of arranging classrooms and treatment rooms adjacent to each other so that children can move back and forth seamlessly and encourage work Cooperation between staff and therapist.
From this collaborative process, four qualitative goals of the project emerged: increase visibility, provide excellent plans, celebrate culture, and expand services. Additional meetings with each user group informed the quantitative requirements, including the number of classrooms and treatment rooms required.
These meetings and dialogues also allow designers to understand the special needs of patients, families, staff, clinicians and teachers who will use the facility. For example, staff and board members explained the importance of creating a safe and quiet space for children to deal with their feelings. However, they also emphasized the importance of children being visible at all times to ensure that they do not harm themselves. The design team responded by suggesting an open, child-sized house structure in each classroom, so that children have privacy to deal with their feelings.
The facility opened at the end of 2020 and covers an area of ??35,000 square feet, with seven classrooms; independent treatment rooms, including outpatient clinics, occupations, language sports, and parent-child interaction; testing rooms; and staff offices. In order to cultivate a sense of belonging for children and adults from the moment they arrive, the design uses thoughtful graphics and architectural elements to create a welcoming and non-institutional environment. Ann Thomas, President and CEO of The Children’s Place, said: “This space is designed to make children feel like a healthy and safe home, otherwise they might not know what it looks like.” “Each classroom is designed to imitate Familiar spaces in the home that promote creativity, play and healing at the same time.”
Specifically, the “front porch” of the classroom welcomes children with simple path-finding strategies, using playful color palettes and letters at the entrance, corridor and outside each door to promote autonomous path-finding for children who cannot read. Inside the classroom, the lighting area for learning, imaginative games and quiet time constitutes the “living room”. The “back porch” has direct access to outdoor classrooms and a spacious private outdoor playground called “backyard”.
The design also aims to help cultivate the independence of young patients. For example, house-like structures in quiet areas include child-height doors and windows. The sinks in the classrooms and toilets are of the right size, and children can take care of their own hygiene.Graphics and activities, such as the senses
The toy is cleverly placed at eye level so that the smallest occupant can
Although the project was designed as a popular destination, it also needed to create visual and physical boundaries to ensure the safety of children. The team programmed the building to support this goal. The door outside the classroom leads to a safe playground with anti-climbing fences to visually protect the children’s living space while allowing daylight to penetrate into the space. The classroom windows have a higher sill height, while the adult waiting room uses spacious floor-to-ceiling windows.
Transparency is essential to help staff support and supervise children. Use one-way mirrors to view the rooms in each classroom so that caregivers, therapists, and family members can observe children and discuss strategies before they interact. The curved, low-height furniture in the room is arranged to designate different areas without hindering the staff’s ability to see the children at any time.
Similar considerations also affect the design of outpatient treatment and support spaces. For example, each of these areas has plenty of natural light, high window sills to ensure safety, and playful carpet patterns that feature houses. These details are connected to the structure of the similar house in the classroom and encourage play and exploration.
The new facility shows how designers use creative and engaging processes to develop strategic solutions to meet the health and social needs of users in the space.
Since its opening, the new children’s home has provided services to more than 30% of children and families. Highly flexible classrooms, treatments, and community areas will enable it to grow and provide more effective and much-needed children’s services to its Kansas City community in the coming years.
Erin Nybo of IIDA is the Head of Interior Design Practice at HOK (Kansas City, Missouri).You can reach her through e[email protected].