The Kentucky Children's Hospital (KCH) unveiled its new Makenna Foundation Welcome Center and Betti Ruth Robinson Taylor Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Lexington.

 Designed by HGA of Minneapolis as Design Architect and GBBN of Lexington as Architect of Record, the Welcome Center and NICU mark a milestone in expanding care for at-risk newborns in Kentucky.

"This new facility is a dream come true for our team," says Dr. Scottie B. Day, M.D., FAAP, physician-in-chief of KCH. "We partnered with doctors, nurses and staff, as well as our patient-parent advisory group to create a space where we can deliver advanced care to our most vulnerable patients.”

Kentucky Children’s Hospital is a hospital within a hospital, part of the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital, all under the UK HealthCare system.

Originally designed in 1988, KCH lacked a central lobby and was accessible only through a single visitor elevator within the main hospital.

To bring greater visibility to KCH and the NICU, the design team filled in an existing open-air courtyard between the main hospital and children’s hospital to create the 8,800-square-foot welcome center. Now, two prominent interior entrances, framed in warm wood and bright-blue paneling, welcome patients from the ground or first floors of the main hospital. 

The light-filled interior features an oblong skylight stretching across the arched ceiling, clusters of colorful seating, interactive digital video wall, and most prominently a large-scale "Exuberance" art installation comprised of marble-filled kites suspended from the ceiling.

Overall, the welcome center includes patient and visitor registration; a children’s-focused gift shop; Simpson Family Theater to host events and programs; Pediatric Health Education Center with educational resources; and business center for parents and families.

Beyond the Welcome Center, the 45,000-square-foot NICU consists of renovation and in-fill construction of the Children’s Hospital, replacing the existing 8,300-square-foot NICU with expanded patient and family spaces and caregiver resources on the first floor, and a new pediatric outpatient and sedation center on the ground floor. 

The 70-bed NICU includes 66 single-bed patient rooms with daybeds for parents; two double-bed patient rooms with daybeds; circadian rhythm lighting; infant nutrition room; lounge, kitchen, laundry, and shower facilities for parents; two care-by-parent rooms; and staff spaces with workroom, lounge area, quiet room, and terrace.

The NICU is organized into six neighborhoods of approximately 12 beds each, allowing nurses to dedicate themselves to a smaller group of patients for integrated team care. A variety of caregiver spaces encourage huddles, support, and learning. Additionally, 12-foot-wide corridors enhance movement and workflows through the NICU, visually and physically increasing connections between staff, patients, and families. 

The six neighborhoods feature colorful, nature-themed mosaic-tile murals inspired by regional wildlife that enhance wayfinding and identify neighborhoods.

Other inspiring aesthetics includes etched-glass interior windows, locally commissioned paintings, and colorful circular pocket seating inset within walls in lounge areas. Throughout, skylights and large-scale windows infuse the interior with light, creating a soothing and warm environment.