Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital

Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital

Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital

Translational Rehabilitation Hospital Utilizes Entire Facility for Patient Care

The Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital at the University of Utah is an expansion of the rehabilitation capabilities on campus and one component of an ambitious campus transformation project. Located on the northeast corner of the University of Utah Campus, the hospital is nestled into the steep foothills of the Wasatch Range, with spectacular mountain views. The new hospital redefines individual patient recoveries and makes use of all aspects of the facility to empower patients on their care journey and pushing the boundaries for future translational rehabilitation research, medicine, and technologies.

Designed in partnership by HDR and FFKR, the 172,00-square-foot, 75-bed hospital provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services and connects to the main hospital by bridge. An atrium with a communicating stair connects the main entry lobby to the lower level where the café, dining and technology labs are located.  The main entrance and drop-off face a memorial garden, fountain and plaza on the east side, and is marked by a canopy. Rehab clinics, therapy gyms and terraces, as well as administration offices are located on the first two levels, with patient floors above. Patient floors are comprised of single patient rooms, family lounges, satellite therapy activities, and multipurpose dining and lounge rooms that incorporate physical therapy through daily activities.

Cohesively Incorporating Biophilic Design in the Healthcare Environment

Inside and out, the design is integrated into the surrounding landscape, with connections between the natural environment and interior spaces. The entry plaza welcomes guests and campus members to the facility. Finishes throughout the building further elevate the campus standards and considerations to a hospitality feel, while respecting the needs and desires of the hospital staff and stakeholders. 

Walnut ceilings in the lobby are translated to wood-look plastic laminate on casework and wood-look wall protection throughout the building. The use of soft, varied lighting as part of the general and accent lighting makes the spaces feel more approachable and dynamic. An outdoor therapy terrace allows patients to move from the gym space to a controlled exterior environment to practice walking on various types of terrain with views of the mountains.

Exterior materials mimic the surrounding landscape and include local quartzitic flagstone, sandstone, copper-like panels and glass. The plaza contains an outdoor therapy space with a naturalistic water feature and native plantings. Boulders were chosen to serve as signage to be reminiscent of mountain trails.

Advancement in Technology and Innovation Space

Empowering patients during every stage of their recoveries drove the design. This involved keeping the patient experience at the forefront of all aspects of building design, including developing individualized controls in patient rooms, incorporating therapy space throughout building circulation, and barrier-free access to all spaces.

The development of translational spaces to foster collaboration between disciplines and advance therapies was paramount to the project. The addition of a GApp lab (therapeutic games and apps) to support design and development of assistive technologies, and a Mobility Garage for patients, doctors, and engineers work together to design, build and modify mobility devices facilitates effort to get patients back to their favorite activities and every day living.

Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital
University of Utah Health

Salt Lake City, UT
United States

172,000 sf (15,979 m²)


Award of Merit (2020)
Health Care Category
Engineering News-Record Mountain States