Children’s National Hospital

10 Years of Innovation

We began working with Children’s National Hospital (CNH) in 2008. Our initial project was a master plan for the entire radiology department. Once the masterplan was complete, the phasing and cost of the plan needed realignment with the overall CNH capital expenditures. Consequently, the plan was broken down into multiple smaller projects that continue to this day.

The overall goal is a complete transformation of the entire department. Each phase incorporates significant and complicated technological advances. Positive distractions appropriate for patients of all ages, and the continued evolution of themes has been a vital design focus of each phase. Departments have corresponding thematic, whimsical distractions that tie directly to the respective procedures.

Each part of the project focuses on a specific modality group. Currently in design, the sixth and final phase will complete staff support spaces and provide waiting space for the adjacent outpatient lab.

During our 10-year journey with CNH, our combined team has created many innovative design solutions that have been presented at multiple national conferences and published in two separate articles in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Children’s Radiology Engineering Architecture Technology Expansion (CREATE) Renovation
Interventional Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (ICMR) Renovation And Expansion
The Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation Pediatric Ultrasound Scanning Excellence (PULSE) Center
The Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation Molecular Imaging Center
• Imaging Waiting, Lab Waiting, and Staff Support


Washington, DC

Building Type



Various SF

  • 2018 IIDA Healthcare Design Award | Category: Hospitals – Pediatric, The Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation Molecular Imaging Center
  • 2019 IIDA-MAC Premiere Design Award | Category: under 10K SF, The Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation Molecular Imaging Center
  • 2020 AIA Northern Virginia Design Award of Merit | Molecular Imaging Center

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A 5,251 SF renovation, the Nuclear Medicine department’s new gamma camera and SPECT/CT space engages curious minds and relieves anxieties of visitors. The Molecular Imaging Center (MIC) is located deep within Children’s National Hospital on the second floor, where the original 1970s building and the late 1980s addition come together. Navigation easily becomes disorienting and adds to the stress of the long, highly technical procedure where anxieties are already elevated, and sensitivities heightened. The approach and connection to the other departments was an important consideration that informed the planning of the space, the phasing of the construction, and the aesthetics of the department.

As visitors move through the space, multiple layers of sensory design—including lower light levels, depth representation, and rhythmic light movement—integrate to form a cohesive and immersive experience. For example, changing color blocks convey depth, while lights and environmental graphics mimic the pulsation of bioluminescent sea creatures.

Light was a driving factor in the design, tied to both procedural necessity and as a calming mechanism. Distraction is inevitable as patients “dive” into the world of bioluminescent creatures and feel immersed within the sea themselves. Naturally curious and creative, children interact with the space instinctively. An art waiting room is in the middle of a kelp forest, while more scientifically-driven minds can learn about bioluminescence from the detailed entrance mural.

Throughout the approach and within the space, it was important to provide a calming environment that alleviates the anguish of a lengthy technical procedure, while instilling confidence.


Phase three of the renovation included diagnostic and procedural ultrasound rooms and staff support spaces for a department that performs approximately 14,000 diagnostic exams a year. The PULSE Center implements new technology to reduce their patients’ exposure to radiation-based imaging while yielding more precise results. Its biophilic theme of “sound” appeals to children and reflects Children’s National Hospital’s mission.

Younger children identify with the bright colors throughout the space while older children gravitate more toward educational elements: Life-size whale graphics located on corridor walls and floors; maps indicating species habitat vs. the geographic location of the hospital; or the Latin name of each whale / dolphin shown at the entrance of each ultrasound room. In addition, a sound booth in the main corridor offers all patients, visitors and staff the opportunity to explore whale sounds.


The expansion and transformation of the ICMR area was the second phase. This space is used to investigate new diagnostic and treatment options for congenital heart malformations and cardiovascular disorders through precise methods that reduce risk from ionizing radiation. It is utilized by multidisciplinary investigators from Children’s National Hospital, NIH, and other institutions in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and beyond. This was one of the first combinations of a 1.5T magnet, set up to function as a catheterization lab, and shielded doors on the MR scan room.


CREATE, which was phase one, was designed to elevate Children’s National Hospital into the top tier for national integrated research and care in radiology. The project includes 32,860 GSF of existing space in addition to the fit-out of 10,000 GSF of shell space on the 2nd floor of the main hospital. This phase involved installing three new magnetic resonance (MR) scanners, a PET / CT scanner, two 1.5 Tesla (T) machines, and one 3T machine.