For most of us, a hospital emergency room rarely induces feelings of peace and tranquility. But Mahlum Architects’ Seattle office made that a top priority in the new 28,000-​square-foot pediatric emergency expansion it designed for the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. At least, it’s calm on the interior. The exterior conveys a more vibrant sensibility.

Located on a dense 45-acre campus on a hilltop overlooking downtown Spokane, Mahlum’s two-story $24 million wing differentiates itself from the hodgepodge of neighboring medical buildings with its striking fire-engine-red facade—a dazzling device for signaling the hospital’s new emergency-care unit—which also includes an entrance for adult emergency services. “It was very intentional—it’s a wayfinding device,” says Mahlum associate Pierce McVey, whose firm has designed roughly a dozen buildings for the hospital, which now has over 600 beds.

The pavilion’s brightly colored aluminum panels clad a rectilinear structure that cantilevers dramatically toward the street, out over a gray aluminum and glass base. On the red-paneled second level, a glassed-walled playroom is recessed from the south facade and framed by yellow panels on the walls and soffit of the setback to give the surfaces more articulation. The steel canopy for a car drop-off flanking the east facade adds a sculptural note.

Visitors enter the new building by way of a narrow double-height glazed atrium where separate doors lead to a waiting area for children in the new wing, or for adults being admitted to an adjoining facility. A larger glazed atrium down the hall connects to the existing main hospital to the north. These vertical shafts of space help introduce natural light into an institutional setting, as do the glass walls of the coffee shop on the first floor, facing the street.

The main pediatric area occupies a large, open rectangular space on the ground floor, where the architect arranged the 17 exam rooms around the perimeter, with the staff area at the center. Sliding glass doors for the individual rooms allow them to be visually monitored, and Mahlum also came up with colorful wall graphics and indirect lighting to help reduce anxiety among the young patients. Other features are meant to reduce stress as well. For example, the architect consolidated all of the medical equipment on a single horizontal band above each bed to keep the occupants from being overwhelmed by a jumble of plugs and cords. (In order to test out its ideas, the design team created a full-scale mock-up of a typical patient room and invited the staff to critique it.)

On the upper floor, a quiet seating area, with upholstered chairs and wood-paneled walls, imparts a domestic ambience for family members and visitors. Where the hall on the north turns into a bridge cutting across the northern double-height atrium, the architect covered the end wall with a photo-mural of a forest.

The glass-walled children’s play area on that level has views to the south and east, of a small healing garden across the street and the city beyond. The toys, books, games, videos, and soft cushions in the play area are just one small benefit of the $3 million donation to the new wing from the Rypien Foundation. Mark Rypien, the former National Football League star and the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player in 1992, created the charity after his son died of cancer at age three. “The Rypien Foundation was very engaged with these spaces,” says McVey. “It wanted an environment that felt very safe, very nonclinical.”

“It’s almost too successful,” says Michael Kelly, the hospital’s director of facilities. “Patients and visitors from all over the complex come here to relax and escape the normal stress of a hospital stay.”


Sacred Heart Medical Center

Mahlum Architects
71 Columbia, Floor 4
Seattle, WA 98104

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Gerald (Butch) Reifert, FAIA, Principal in Charge
Gary Signs, AIA, Project Manager
Pierce McVey, AIA, LEED AP, Project Designer
Duncan Davidson, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Project Architect
Wes Hoffman, AIA, Project Architect
Stacy Bender, Interior Designer
PJ Bauser, Medical Planner
Steve Matsudaira, Specifications
Jacob Strobl, Technical Support
Susan McNabb, Technical Support

Engineers :
Coffman Engineers

DCI Engineers

MW Consulting Engineers

Coffman Engineers

Environment West

Coffman Engineers

Greenbusch Group

The Robinson Company, Cost Estimator

General contractor:
Bouten Construction Company

Ben Benschneider


28,000 square feet

Construction Cost:

$18.6 million

Project Cost:

$24 million

Completion Date:

January 2013



Structural system
Steel frame

Exterior cladding
Metal/glass curtain wall:
Marlin Windows, Inc.

Aluminum Composite Metal:
Alucobond, Alcan Composites USA, Inc.

Moisture barrier:
VaproShield, LLC

Wood Composite Panels:

Built-up roofing:
Tremco Burmastic Roof System

Metal Roof and Soffits:
AEP Span

PPG Industries, Inc.

Marlin Windows, Inc.

NABCO Automatic Entrances

Metal doors:

Wood doors:
VT Industries

Sliding doors:
NABCO Entrances

Security grilles:
Dynamic Closures

Fire Doors:
Total Door



Exit devices:
Von Duprin

Von Duprin

Security devices:
Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings:

Suspension grid:

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Inland Fixture Co.

Paints and stains:
Miller Paint Company

Wall coverings:

Plastic laminate:
Wilsonart, Formica

Solid surfacing: LG Hausys Hi Macs

Floor tile in public spaces:

Resilient flooring:
Mannington Commercial

Mannington Commercial

Wall Graphics:
Image Mill, Inc.

Interior ambient lighting:
Zumtobel, Lithonia, Selux


Task lighting:


Dimming System or other lighting controls:
Phillips Lighting Electronics

Decorative Fixtures:
Foscarini, Studio Design Italia, Bruck

Otis Elevator Company

Elkay, American Standard

Energy management or building automation system:
Johnson Controls

Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:
The Rypien Foundation in Spokane provided key funding to jumpstart the project and was active from the start of design. Spokane resident Mark Rypien, Most Valued Player in the 1992 Super Bowl for the Washington Redskins, started the Rypien Foundation after his three-year-old son died of cancer. The foundation provided funds that supported the kids club space and the hall of champions, where displays encourage conquering adversity and difficult conditions.