University of Iowa – Stead Family Children’s Hospital

University of Iowa

Stead Family Children's Hospital

the story

The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital (SFCH) is the cornerstone development initiative that inspired a comprehensive new campus masterplan. As a University and academic medical center fundamentally embedded into the fabric and geography of Iowa City, SFCH reimagined the role of nature, light, and community engagement. This initiative streamlines healthcare services, elevates innovation, and fosters a new era of patient care delivery.  The 14-story oval tower and its welcoming plaza is a planning and design revolution for the district, and a striking symbol of pride in progressive pediatric care.  Heery Design, A SLAM Studio, designed the project with Foster + Partners serving as Design Architect on the exterior and ZGF providing integrated environment design.

[logo] at-a-glance

New Building
Interior Design
Programming & Planning
Iowa City, IA
Completed in 2017
507,000 GSF

During the schematic and design development phases, the design team met regularly with a Family Advisory Committee, a Youth Advisory Committee, as well as user groups.  Their efforts resulted in efficiencies, themes, amenities, and future-state readiness with current-state creativity and innovation.  Four working patient room mock-ups were fully finished and furnished for public tours, staff training, donor interest, and IT refinement.  Several public open houses were held to encourage community feedback and showcase the planning and design progress.  Highlighted were detailed studies on color theory, building orientation, wayfinding, and the enhanced campus experience.


To maximize limited site availability, an existing hospital parking structure was demolished and replaced with four underground parking levels. This enabled creation of a ground level plaza that features a lush park through which families enter the existing hospital. The new parking structure also allows direct and accessible wayfinding to the Children’s Hospital. Patients, families, visitors and staff are able to easily walk between the existing hospital and new tower, enhancing the patient experience.

Natural daylight plays a key role in the design, which incorporates unprecedented amounts of glass in a hospital facility. This contributes to healing as well as creating a welcoming community landmark. Designers were careful to study orientation and best practices in shading to determine optimum glazing and envelope materials while achieving spectacular views. Seven “light wells” rhythmically spaced throughout each floor allow for light to be driven into the interior core of the building, improving staff well-being and wayfinding.

Entry processional to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital overlooks the park and plaza area, located above the underground parking structure.

The extensive input from patients and families is evident in the inpatient rooms. The massive 7 foot by 13 foot window provides spectacular views and much appreciated natural daylight.


2018, IIDA (International Interior Design “People’s Choice Award” Association) Great Plains Chapter

2018, SCCM (Society of Critical Care “Intensive Care Unit of the Year” Medicine) AACCN (American Association of Critical Care Nurses) & AIA (American Institute of Architects)

2018, HCD (Healthcare Design) “Citation of Merit” Highest Award

2018, HCD (Healthcare Design) “Citation of Merit” Highest Award, University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital

2018, European Healthcare Design “Healthcare Design (over 20,000 sqm)”, University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital

2018, European Healthcare Design “Interior Design and the Arts”, University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital

Project Contacts