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Case Study:

Children’s Hospital “Pietro Barilla ” in Parma

The ‘Pietro Barilla’ Children’s Hospital in Parma expresses an approach to paediatric care in which architecture itself contributes to the care of young patients and pursues the objective of safeguarding the total well-being of people, starting from the principle that ‘not everything about a sick child is sick’.

Innovative Hospital Design

The small-medium hospital with 99 beds prioritizes environmental and microclimatic performance. The distribution of double and single rooms caters to diverse inpatient needs. We’ve optimized thermal and acoustic performance through innovative building orientation, a double-skin envelope with insulating materials and reflective glass, and sustainable wall technologies. A portion of the roof serves as an accessible garden. The distribution solutions ensure seamless integration of internal and external functions, fostering optimal interrelationships among research, diagnostic services, inpatient care, and emergencies. Technological and ecological choices minimize energy consumption, creating a comfortable environment for harmonious functional interaction. Here you can experience healthcare in a space designed for sustainability and flexibility.

Ospedale dei Bambini

Patient-Centric Hospital Design

The goal was to blend hospital functionality with patients’ psychophysical well being, guided by the following key criteria:

  • Honour the historical site identity, integrating with the urban context while standing out from other healthcare buildings.
  • Ensure building flexibility for future technological changes and evolving needs.
  • Humanize the hospital’s relationship with patients and the community, creating a welcoming, accessible environment.
  • Prioritize functional and psychological aspects of space, notably emphasizing the atrium as an internal ‘piazza’ for reception, information, and refreshments.

Iconic Building Integration

The building was designed to interpret and integrate with its surroundings and represent its values within the city. The façade features reflective glazing on coloured vertical mullions, crafting a distinctive image. Our study delved into the historical formation matrix, examining the strategic business decisions that resulted in the unique polyblock structure instead of traditional pavilions.


The project aims to humanise care, transforming hospitals from places of care to places where people are taken care of. The paediatric hospital assumes a vital role in promoting the well-being of the hospitalised child in a holistic sense, taking into account not only the bio-physiological aspects but also the psychological, social and cultural ones.

Graduality of care

In the new building, there are no longer any specialised wards for patients with different disease severities. The ordinary multi-specialist inpatient ward is concerned with the health of children and adolescents requiring internist or surgical care. This approach requires the collaboration of a team of specialists who work in synergy and confront each other daily in diagnostic and therapeutic activities. The aim is to offer integral care to the totality and complexity of the child, avoiding treating individual organs or apparatuses as elements isolated from the rest of the body preserving the dimension of the person taken as a whole.

Environmental psychology

The focus of the therapeutic process shifts from the disease to being treated to the multidimensional complexity of the individual. Crucially, how hospital space is organized and managed plays a crucial role in making services less traumatic. Hospitals, akin to a diverse family, host individuals of various ages, pathologies, cultures, and lifestyles. This diversity extends to health workers. Analyzing these elements helps identify varied care styles, which significantly impact the patient’s psychophysical state when combined with environmental factors like sounds, lights, and colours.

Environment and spatial perception

The organisation of physical space influences the clinical and psychological conditions of patients. People’s behaviour is a tangible response to the stresses received from the environment. The bio-psycho-social model developed for this project indicates that external environmental factors can contribute to the performance of individuals to improve their quality of life. The main physical factors influencing environmental comfort and psychological response include sounds, colours, lighting, smells and tactile response. In addition, the size and shape of spaces and furniture arrangement play decisive roles.

Light Design

Inside the building, natural light makes it easier to navigate and enhance our communal spaces. Outside, light dances with the reflective elements and vibrant colours of the façade, defining the public areas through expansive openings in walls and roofs. The goal is to transform the hospital into a warm and familiar space, steering clear of the cold and unwelcoming feel often associated with healthcare environments.

A key aspect of sound design involves considering the acoustic response of critical areas like patient rooms and high-traffic spaces, such as waiting rooms and corridors. Thus, the project considers speech privacy, the reverberation of the rooms, the attenuation provided by separating elements, the necessary vocal effort and background noise as masking agents.

Sound Design

Reception spaces

The organisation of the reception spaces follows people’s behaviour and proxemic patterns. Thus, different types of waiting areas make the hospital space more intimate and personal.

Humanizing care

Informed by the World Health Organization’s anthropological-biopsychosocial model, our design concept delves into the impact of environmental factors on the patient-careplace dynamic. Our goal of humanizing care is embodied through meticulous attention to various levels within the organizational, care, and health realms, fostering a user-friendly and staff-friendly facility