Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Architect: HDR | Gensler | Clive Wilkinson Architects

Owner: Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Location: Chicago, IL

A top destination for adults and children living with the most severe conditions, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has redefined the ways in which science and care coexist. In Chicago, this 1.2-million-square-foot facility reshapes the future of rehabilitation in its role as a translational research hospital where clinicians, scientists, and technologists work together in shared spaces to discover and apply new approaches to care in real time.

Integral concepts in the field of translational care drove every facet of the planning and design process. In the facility, research does not merely intermingle with patient care; it is fully integrated into the clinical environment and engages patients in the process. All five of the facility’s ability labs, as well as its applied research and therapeutic spaces, include highly visible space for working with patients and private space for analysis and planning.

A number of firms formed a unified design team in the development of the project’s graphics and wayfinding program. Communicating the facility’s values and mission throughout the physical space, and contributing to the healing process, the graphics create discrete environments for each lab. Together they uplift the spirit while motivating patients during their recovery and rehabilitation. Ceiling graphics, found throughout the building and its entryway and 10th-floor Sky Lobby, echo its identity.

With the overall design focused on the patient, the compelling graphics are paired with frictionless interiors, providing those with mobility challenges a more intuitive way to move. Seeking to harness nature’s power to calm and heal, the building provides direct connections to the outdoors, even in its downtown setting. Landscape architects created a series of flexible outdoor spaces that seep into the interior and encourage respite, conversations, and breakout spaces during conferences.

Carefully designed to serve as a living laboratory, the building includes an additional 250,000 square feet of expansion and soft space. Strategically placed throughout the building, it will allow programs and collaborations to evolve naturally and continuously retool the AbilityLab concept.

Additional information

Program Manager: Arcadis US Inc.

Lead Design Firm: HDR | Gensler

Associate Architect: Clive Wilkinson Architects

Brand Design: EGG Office

General Contractor: Power Construction Co.

Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti Inc.

MEP Engineer: Environmental Systems Design Inc.

Civil Engineer: V3 International

Parking Consultants: Desman Associates

Fire/Life Safety Consultants: Jensen Hughes

Vertical Transportation Consultants: Lerch Bates, Inc.

Façade and Curtain Wall Consultants: Permasteelisa

Acoustical Consultants: Shiner + Associates, Inc.

Audio-Visual and Cabling Consultants: V-Xion Network Design


Candid Rogers, FAIA, Chair, Candid Rogers Architect, San Antonio, TX

Cornell Anderson, AIA, Fieldwork Design & Architecture, LLC, Portland, Oregon

Caitlin Daley, AIA, Buell Kratzer Powell, LTD, Philadelphia, PA

William T. Eberhard, AIA, Eberhard Architects LLC, Cleveland, OH

Peter MacKeith, Assoc. AIA, University of Arkansas, Fay Jones School of Architecture, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Image credits

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Michael Moran

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Michael Moran

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Dave Burk

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Dave Burk

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David Burk