Top left: A detail of the Pinocchio-hat
skylights on the roof. Left: A rendering of the skylights. Below: Color-coded ceramic cones act as hallway
landmarks and way-finding devices.
Bottom left: One of two large light
wells that pour daylight deep into the
building. Bottom right: The atrium of
the hospital is located in a restored
Meyer’s green roof enables it to
blend into its natural surroundings.
It also helps insulate the hospital,
lowering indoor temperatures by
You’d think that burying a
children’s hospital would be
are generally not regarded
as healing environments.
the Tuscan hills) and utterly alien to it (a 280,000-
square-foot 21st-century health-care machine).
The contradictions are part of the package, and
part of the reason that it is considered so important for Italian health care.
You’d think that partially burying a children’s
hospital would be counterintuitive. (Bunkers are
generally not regarded as healing environments.)
But embedding the structure in a knoll within a
lush park allowed the architects to preserve and
restore the site’s handsome set of classical buildings, which were once home to the Villa Ognissanti,
a former tuberculosis clinic with expansive (and
presumably recuperative) views of the landscape.
One of the smaller buildings, a modest, three-story palazzo, now serves as the hospital’s entrance.
The new structure is hidden behind three of the
historic pavilions, invisible from the street. “
Everybody loved the old hospital,” says Romano Del
Nord, the CSPE partner who invited Anshen +
Allen to join the project. “It had a small dimension, a human dimension. We wanted to create a
memory of the past while reducing the impact of
the big structure.”
During the competition that launched the design,
several teams proposed tearing down one or more
historic buildings to accommodate a parking garage. “We decided to keep the cars out of the
park,” says Giulio Felli, the CSPE director who
oversaw the project. “When families arrive they
have to walk. It’s long, but it’s the kind of walk
that gives tranquility to the kids.” It is indeed a
long walk (much longer than most Americans
would tolerate, according to Anshen + Allen), past
the palazzo, down a long, glassed-in passageway
that threads through a healing garden, and finally
into a large, sun-drenched atrium called the Serra
(“greenhouse”). This curved, triple-height space
attached to one of the Villa Ognissanti pavilions
(two others house outpatient services and a medical school) acts as the circulatory heart of the
hospital, stitching old and new together.
The Serra is the hospital’s public face—a space
Bottom left two photos, Alessandro Ciampi/courtesy CSPE; bottom right photo,
Pietro Savorelli/courtesy CSPE; other images, courtesy CSPE