pirogov children's hospital is a healing environment inspired by everyday heroes

Creating a Helping and Healing Environment for Little Heroes


Scott W. Briggs, AIA, Senior Associate


“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Mister Rogers


In this time of global crisis and uncertainty, true helpers and “heroes” have emerged from various sectors of society. Doctors and nurses courageously confront the day-to-day urgency of medical needs of the sick and dying, and police officers, sanitation workers, transit workers, store clerks, pharmacists, and many others are helping to maintain order, provide essential services, and calm our stress levels during this time. Children can be particularly vulnerable to bouts of anxiety as they struggle to align developing minds and bodies with the uncertain forces working around them, over which they often have little to no control. SKOLNICK is reminded of a recent project to design a healing environment that sought to provide solace to kids facing health crises by looking to helpers and heroes for inspiration.



lobby of children's hospital, a healing environment for kids and families in Bulgaria

The new aquatic-themed lobby area at Pirogov Children’s Hospital in Bulgaria


In 2017, the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF) invited SKOLNICK to work with a Bulgarian team to develop public spaces and patient rooms during the renovation of the Pirogov Children’s Hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria. SKOLNICK had recently completed work on a  new building and exhibits for Muzeiko, the America for Bulgaria Children’s Museum in Sofia, and felt our expertise with design for children and family environments could be brought to bear on its latest initiative, “Little Heroes.”


Colorful graphics add a sense of whimsy to this healing environment for kids

Tropical-themed graphic murals and new wayfinding give the hospital corridors a cheerful, welcoming feel


The program was developed in conjunction with Bulgaria’s Ministry of Health to modernize the children’s wing at Pirogov. ABF sought to infuse this healing environment with spaces that would provide not only child-centric design, but also complement Pirogov’s recognized clinical excellence in providing medical and surgical care to children. Pirogov is home to medical departments such as Pediatric Surgery, Children’s Neurosurgery, Children’s Urology, and a Children’s Trauma Clinic, which are unique within Bulgaria.


pirogov children's hospital provides a comforting healing environment for kids and families

Everyday heroes were the inspiration for several design motifs throughout the hospital


The “little heroes” are obviously the kids themselves, remaining brave in the face of illness, but this concept took on a broader meaning when we thought about all types of heroes that can be found in literature and popular culture, and also in our everyday society. Working with the “Little Heroes” concept, SKOLNICK collaborated with ABF and Four Plus, a Sofia-based graphic design agency, to develop welcoming motifs on various themes – heroes from mythology, nursery rhymes, and Bulgarian folktales; heroes of the Seven Seas; and everyday “superheroes” in children’s lives such as parents, teachers, public service workers, medical professionals, and so forth.


Everyday heroes are featured in hospital murals

Play spaces and hospital rooms were enhanced by vibrant graphics, playful furnishings, and custom interactives


Distributed throughout the Children’s Hospital, these themes were deployed based on age group and general visual appeal. The colorful and engaging paint schemes, murals, signage, interactive elements, and environments that resulted form a cohesive approach that enlivens the children’s wing at Pirogov Children’s Hospital. In addition to the permanent design elements throughout the Hospital, SKOLNICK worked with project partner IKEA on a selection of comfortable, contemporary kid-sized furnishings and soft goods for patient rooms, playrooms, and public areas. The result is an environment that gives comfort, provides healing stimulation, and inspires children’s imagination to see beyond their current health situation.



colorful graphics and interactives throughout children's hospital in Bulgaria

An aquatic-themed waiting room and interactive “submarine” provide welcome diversions for visitors


This type of project illustrates what SKOLNICK hopes our best work for healthcare can do: combine beautiful, warm and welcoming environments that provide joy, positive distraction, and inspiration, ultimately leading to quicker healing and recovery times. As the world emerges from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will undoubtedly be an increasing need for spaces that can provide the best possible medical care. The Pirogov project celebrates the everyday heroes who are literally putting their lives on the line to help us overcome this current crisis.


Scott Briggs, AIA has led several children’s hospital projects for SKOLNICK including Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Medical Center, the Ezra Abraham to Life Foundation’s Activity Room at the Hospital for Special Surgery, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey’s Plumeri Wishing Place.





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