February 26, 2004

Contact: Becca Ramspott, School of Fine Arts, (785) 864-5567.

KU design students research infant intensive-care hospital facility

LAWRENCE - Industrial and interior design students at the University of Kansas recently presented innovative research on the design of a hospital's intensive care nursing area to an international conference on neonatology.

After 15 months of intensive planning and design research done in conjunction with Stormont Vail HealthCare in Topeka and the Harrell Group, an architectural firm based out of Cincinnati, the KU students presented "The Physical and Developmental Environment of the High Risk Infant" at a conference in Clearwater, Fla. this month.

"They were the only student group invited to present their findings at the plenary session of the conference, and they represented KU extremely well," said Kent Spreckelmeyer, KU professor of architecture. "I received over 20 direct comments from conference participants concerning the professionalism and innovative quality of the research they presented."

Spreckelmeyer was as a key adviser for the students, who worked on the project in a special problems design class. Richard Branham, professor of industrial design, and Frank Zilm, a member of the School of Architecture and Urban Design Advisory Board, also served as a part-time advisers for the group.

The resulting project, the first of its kind, demonstrated a design plan for 27 private rooms in a circular pattern around a central medical and nursing core, with a perimeter access corridor for family entry to the infant rooms. The primary concept is to enable medical and nursing staffs and families to approach the infant from different perspectives and to give each a sense of control and personal territory.

KU students were involved throughout the design process of the proposed neonatal care unit. They presented interior space design ideas to the Harrell Group and spent the first six months sketching, making site visits, evaluating interior design spacing and doing equipment research. They then put together and facilitated a life-size mock-up area of two rooms from the Harrell architectural design.

"We were involved in very intensive and long research and design meetings - sometimes meeting as many as three times a week, plus meeting with our adviser, Dr. Spreckelmeyer, the administrative staff at Stormont Vail and the architect," said Kate Harding, a Piqua, Ohio, senior majoring in industrial design.

"As a student, I feel extremely lucky to have been involved in such a professional project," said Katharine Harris, an Olathe senior majoring in industrial design . "Although I don't have a specific desire to do medically-related design work, this project has really opened my eyes to the scale, timeline and process of a 'real-life' design project."

Near the end of the project, the group put together a survey for 56 staff members and 25 parents who visited the built mock-ups to get a feel for their responses to the proposed design. The students also share their success with Spreckelmeyer.

"His insights and experiences were invaluable to us as we proceeded through this project, helping us combine our more artistic ideals with the common practicality that made the design successful," Harris said.

The Department of Design is one of three academic units of the KU School of Fine Arts, which is also the parent organization of the Lied Center of Kansas.

Participants of the group, their majors, hometowns, parents and high schools include:

Katharine Harris, senior in industrial design, daughter of Kent and Susan Harris; Olathe South High School.

Overland Park
Lauren Slaterbeck, senior in industrial design, daughter of Jim and Gay Marie Slaterbeck; Blue Valley Northwest High School.

Ali Racunas, who received a bachelor's degree in interior design in December 2003, daughter of Tom and Becky Racunas; Carroll High School.

Emily Foelske, senior in industrial design, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ken Foelske; Boulder High School.

Kate Harding, senior in industrial design, daughter of Bill and LeeAnn Harding; Piqua High School.


This site is maintained by University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Information may be reused without permission; images may be reused with notice of copyright but not altered.

 • Contact us: kurelations@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045