COANIQUEM: Safe Niños: Development Seminar | Co-creating Innovative Healing Environments for Children




Inspired by the momentum created by previous Safe Niños Studios which engaged ArtCenter students to create innovative environmental elements for two satellite campuses of COANIQUEM – a nonprofit pediatric burn treatment facility based in Santiago, Chile – this Designmatters development seminar challenged interdisciplinary students to continue to refine and improve on key design elements/environments that would be physically installed onsite on the Chilean campuses at Antofagasta (in the north) and Puerto Montt (south).

Project Brief



Building upon the work accomplished in the previous Safe Niños Studio, a smaller group of transdisciplinary ArtCenter students continued the design process and focused on cost-effective and innovative ways to bring some of the original conceptual ideas to reality at the two satellite campuses of Chile’s COANIQUEM, a pediatric burn center.

Students collaborated as a unified team but worked in different groups to tackle specific environmental upgrades and to refine design aspects to the campus. As in the original studio, students were heavily engaged in co-creation with COANIQUEM stakeholders including pediatric patients, their families, doctors, staff and administration, drawing upon their expertise to produce practical yet engaging connective elements around the campus that would present a cohesive vision of care and compassion.


“This group worked so wonderfully together. At the beginning of the term, I said, ‘We are going to work as a real design studio where we have different talents, different strengths, and we complement each other.’ They really took that to heart. They were in communication with each other all the time. They knew which one would be the right person for each design job, the color, the typeface, etc. They respected each other’s talents and that is reflected in the work.”

– Stella Hernandez, Faculty, Environmental Design

About Burn Patients and Latin America



Every year, more than 7 million children across Latin America are victims of burn accidents. In Chile alone, 100,000 burn accidents occur with the majority involving children under 5 years of age; burn injuries are the third cause of death in children under 15 years old.

About 90 percent of burn accidents for children happen at home even with parents at home. Youngsters are burned by hot liquids, open fires, electrical fires, fireworks and hot elements from heaters and irons. Recovering from a burn – whether small or large – can be painful and often involves extensive follow-up care that can take decades. The process is extremely stressful since many families live in faraway underserved communities.

For survivors and their families, a burn represents a psychological, emotional as well as physical scar that changes everyone for the rest of their lives.


“I am taking this class because I want to make things real. On paper, you can do cool stuff, but here, you are actually making things. You are making the change.

During the last studio, we had the chance to reimagine spaces; now we have to concentrate on what really can be done right now in order to promote future implementation of the plans and ideas we designed.”

– Helen Huang, Student, Environmental Design


Since its inception in 1979 by Dr. Jorge Rojas-Zegers, COANIQUEM has cared for more than 100,000 children suffering from devastating and life-altering burn injuries; children and families travel to the Santiago, Chile facility from South American countries and the Caribbean Islands. Because of partnerships and international support, COANIQUEM can offer their services at no cost to families, many who live in poverty.

COANIQUEM treats 8,000 patients annually, with survivors and families living on the facility grounds for weeks and months as they undergo treatments and therapy sessions. The main campus is located in a Santiago residential neighborhood and is accessible by public transportation. Two COANIQUEM outlying facilities are located at Antofagasta in the north (to be built), and Puerto Montt (rental space) in the south.

Taking a holistic approach, COANIQUEM combines medical attention, restorative healing and comprehensive rehabilitation programs to treat physical and psychological scars. Trained professionals from a wide range of specializations are part of the COANIQUEM facility: medical doctors, registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers and music therapists. Teachers at the on-site school ensure that children of all ages who are undergoing treatments keep up with their education.

Since 2013, COANIQUEM has partnered with ArtCenter to create design opportunities to welcome and reassure patients and families; many elements have been installed onsite.


“I was really attracted to the topic and work of COANIQUEM. I have a background of working and volunteering with kids, so I really enjoyed the aspects of what this studio entailed. I saw all the great work done by ArtCenter students in the past with COANIQUEM so I really wanted to be a part of this experience and contribute what I can.”

– Isabel Liaw, Graduate Student, Environmental Design

Research and Project Development



Most students in the development seminar participated in the previous Safe Niños Innovative Healing Environment studio and spent two weeks in Chile immersed in the cultural and physical landscape of COANIQUEM. They toured the main COANIQUEM campus in Santiago and its two outlying facilities: Antofagasta in the north (to be built), and Puerto Montt (rental space) in the south.

During the course of this development seminar, students often drew upon these personal experiences as they researched, prototyped and conceptualized. Students recalled powerful memories of the physical and emotional journey of burn victims and family members in addition to the geographical and cultural differences in both northern and southern communities.

The Chilean locations presented two distinct challenges: the northern campus currently is an empty lot; a 10,000 sq. ft. COANIQUEM campus (that will also include a separately-operated nearby senior living facility) is planned to be constructed in the outskirts of Antofagasta. ArtCenter students crafted an extensive overall master plan campus design that included treatment facilities, parking, green spaces, and other amenities.

In the south, the Puerto Montt facility is a temporary location situated on two floors of a rental structure; ArtCenter students created a final design incorporating 2 and 3D graphics to easily (and affordably) transform the existing main office/reception area, hallways and treatment rooms into warmer, more inviting and child-friendly environments.

Development seminar students reflected on how best to continue the design process with the focus on physical installation, outlining specific steps to take the conceptual elements from paper to actualization.

Connecting the Projects with Consistent Elements

Students concentrated reframing efforts on the most important, easily accessible and lowest cost elements of the Safe Ninos Innovative Healing Environments final presentations.

Even though each student was responsible for design aspects of a specific environmental element, the entire class collaborated as one unified team to thematically connect their singular projects with an overall group goal. Students determined which design elements needed to be consistent and communicated closely with each other on how those elements (character design, style, color pallet, typography, tone, etc.) could effectively be presented.

Student design-thinking was guided by the Healing Tree storylines created for COANIQUEM and its two campuses; these narratives and friendly characters empower children with a deeper understanding of their own healing journey.

Students critically examined all aspects of their projects especially the cost-effectiveness and ease of creation and installation. In some instances, certain elements were set aside for practical reasons, while new ones were created.

Students created prototypes and models, storyboarded how families and children will interact with their design/product and diagramed blow-out versions. Character designs were updated, graphic systems and font styles were simplified, and design details were spelled out.

Additionally, students tested technology related to their projects; they sourced materials for affordability and researched Chilean and American companies that could be involved in the final installation process.

At midterm, students presented their work to COANIQUEM representatives both in-person and via Skype. Through mock-ups, prototypes and sketches, students described the details of their environmental designs and outlined the immediate next steps needed for implementation. They presented plans for project installation in 2020, noting which aspects will be performed in Los Angeles and which would be done in Chile. Through their material sourcing investigations, students estimated cost factors for all aspects of the design features.

Stakeholders were enthused by the tangible progress and offered feedback on text (especially translation into Spanish) and provided practical advice surrounding assembly logistics in Chile.  


Refining and Finalizing Elements

For the remainder of the seminar, students continued to hone and polish concepts. They finalized implementation plans that diagrammed assembly. They called out affordable materials along with professional vendor options; some steps were imagined being done in Los Angeles, others in Chile.

For some projects, future testing in Chile would be needed. Students created a plan detailing the specifics of how testing would work, who would administer the testing and what the test results would mean in terms of the specific project.

Even though students worked separately, collaboration was at the heart of the seminar. Students were in constant contact with each other, exchanging ideas and providing continual support, always keeping in mind the holistic Big Picture of a completely reimagined COANIQUEM campus and impact on stakeholders.


“During our research, data could be overwhelming. Each year there was data, and it was all on this Excel spread sheet. When we were looking at the data it started to look like, well, texture. That’s where our idea came into play. But we still had to make that data understandable and relatable.”

– Nancy Tsai, Student, Product Design + Designmatters Minor

Antofagasta Project Outcomes

Welcoming Wall
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Consisting of 60 v-shaped panels made of aluminum, the Two-Way Sign will be located under the overhang across the main door. The paneled sign will be legible from 60 feet away and, depending on orientation, will read “Hola” or “Chao” (hello, goodbye) in vibrant eye-catching colors. Stylized Healing Tree animal graphics welcome with a friendly wave.

Outdoor Furniture/Play Structures
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Mountainous flat outlines surround walkways where children can use their imagination as they engage in physical activities. Pathways become gateways to adventure in these gentle sloping structures. Mounted on two curved molds, a Running Mountain structure is inspired by skate board ramp construction; Music Mountain features musical wind chimes (steel tubes) that can be struck to create rhythmic tones. Mountain panel pieces will have painted edges.

A Bench Seating element also incorporates a curvy mountain outline and is painted with the calming colors of green and blue. Created with a soft wood such as cedar or California redwood, these outdoor pieces of furniture are easy to assemble with simple hardware. An efficient layout pattern of the uncut pieces – put together like a jigsaw puzzle – will help reduce cost and waste.

Outdoor Activities
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A Giant Jenga –like game engages different generations with the popular game and features words from “Dame La Mano” (“Give Me Your Hand”) by poet Gabriela Mistral. The inspiring stanzas – Give me your hand and we will dance together – subtly reassures patients and families.

The Desert Bloom Hopscotch invites children to create their own self-directed game near the waiting room where they can jump on colorful small petals, numbered circular shapes and/or leaves that are applied on the concrete via long-lasting ultraviolet paint.

Outdoor Healing Garden
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An open-air prefab Wooden Pergola sets the boundaries for the Healing Garden that features:

• Wooden Animal Planters incorporate three Healing Tree animal shapes on multiple levels: a 30-inch Rabbit Planter, a 24-inch Deer Planter and a 12-inch Tortoise Planter. Crafted out of pine lumber, these prefab planters are customized with simple ears, heads and tails. Low ramps allow accessibility for wheelchair users and young children. Planters can be combined with mountain panels for versatility and interest.

• A Vertical Poem Garden is a free-standing wall with sectional elements visible on both sides. The steel-framed garden structure artfully intersperses felt pocket planters (with live green plants, soil and drainage cells), plug-in planters (for larger plants), open mesh screens (holding air plants) and laser-cut words from “Dame La Mano” (Give me your hand and we will dance together) created out of brushed steel. When correctly aligned, as the sun goes down, the poetic words will be projected shadows on the ground. The wall base features thick mesh cages with stones to support the wall and provide texture diversity.

• A Shade Structure will stretch overhead to protect from the heat of the day.

Interactive Lobby Elements
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Taking its design cue from the nearby desert, the Wishing Cactus invites anyone (guests, patients, family, etc.) to write encouraging words, describe their feelings, and/or draw emotions, etc. on a paper cactus flower. Cactus flowers are handed out near reception area; the Wishing Cactus will be located nearby. Flowers are placed on a 6-foot tall wooden cactus that is created with a plywood base, and features small wooden plugs that secure the paper blooms. Flowers will be removed monthly, but a digital image of each note will be taken and played on a loop on a nearby monitor.

Interactive Hallways/Graphic System
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The main hallway leading to the Psychology Room will be enhanced to provide comfort and reassurance to patients and families as they approach the treatment door. The graphic system combines three elements: 3D hanging objects, 2D decorative illustrations and room signage.

3D star mobiles will hang from the ceiling in groupings of five large and small stars from unseen monofilament wires. Yellow and orange star outlines will be created in wood using a template.

The hallway becomes an immersive nighttime environment with floor to ceiling purple-hued 2D illustrations on both sides. One scene depicts a calm moon swinging a mouse while other mice scamper among cactuses, rocks and around tortoises. The other side shows imagery of a hanging telescope pointed toward the night sky that focuses on smiling stars and constellations; mice are looking through the scope while human shadow figures – an adult and children – approach as if to wait in line.

Room signage will incorporate specific Healing Tree animals associated with the room’s purpose. These 3-D signs will protrude out from the upper door area and feature cut-out animals standing on the room name that uses the COANIQUEM stencil word font. These plywood signs with acrylic surfaces will be affixed with secured brackets and screws.

Psychology Room Element: Interactive Maze Game
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An interactive wall game will help young minds relax and focus attention on a fun activity. The Puzzle Gem Game: Collect the Gem invites children to maneuver a maze to collect gems with underground miner mice. Affixed to a wall, the game will be positioned at a child’s height and extend to the ground.

Personal Artifact/Healing Tree Story
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Every child admitted into COANIQUEM receives a special storytelling artifact that describes a journey of familiar characters symbolically reflecting the patient’s journey into wellness. Camilla and Lucas accompany the children through the COANIQUEM treatments, helping them understand the challenges and fears but also learn lessons in endurance, the holistic approach to healing and the power of friendship.

At Antofagasta, children will receive a colorful story wheel “The Healing Treasure” that can be spun to describe steps in the journey (reception, wound dressing, psychology, etc.) which are represented by animal friends. The story wheel is an illustrated design with corresponding text bound together by a brad fastener.

Puerto Montt Project Outcomes

Welcoming Wall
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Created with v-shaped MDF wood panels, the playful wall will be located at the third floor reception area and will incorporate cheerful colors along with stylized Healing Tree imagery of Gato Huiña and local fish. Depending on the direction, large vinyl graphics will read “Hola” or “Chao” (hello and goodbye).

Vertical Living Wall System
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Located outside of the elevator and taking advantage of natural sunlight, this Living Wall features sectional elements that contain laser-cut metal words from the poem “Dame La Mano,” living plants in fabric pockets and mesh screens. Crafted with sheet metal and adorned with vinyl stickers, the wall reflects the site’s color palette and will be visible from inside and outside.

Indoor Reception Area Furniture/Wall Graphics
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For this small location, mountain-themed furniture engages children for play and also provides storage space for toys and other items. Mini Mountain Stools and a Mini Mountain Activity Table are created with giant industrial cardboard tubes. Stools can be easily moved around and provide children with correct height to play at the table. Constructed with lightweight cork and waterproof fabric, lids can be lifted up and removed so items can be placed inside these thick cylinders.

Wall graphics featuring a snorkeling Gato Huina underwater with friendly coral, clams, seahorses and starfish, will be a vinyl print that employs bright cheerful tones and provide the space with a touch of transformative magic. Imagery is applied using an efficient stencil technique with paint.

Interactive Lobby Elements
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Inspired by the nearby ocean, the Courageous Coral invites anyone (guests, patients, family, etc.) to write encouraging words, describe their feelings, draw emotions, etc. on a paper starfish and then place it on a colorful underwater scene. Paper starfish are handed out near check-in area; the wooden coral imagery panel is nearby. Guests place the paper starfish on small wooden notched dowel on the panel to secure them. Starfish messages will be removed monthly, but a digital image of each note will be taken and played on a loop on a nearby monitor.

Across from the Welcoming Wall, three Interactive Portholes offer children opportunities to play and test their small hand motor coordination as they concentrate on manipulating objects and scenes. Each porthole has a design theme: appearance, labyrinth and movement. Designed for small hands and all the same size, portholes are made with MDF wood with vinyl illustrations and employ lazy Susan-style frames.

• Appearance: A scene of Camilla and Lucas on a boat with a 3D starfish waving goodbye to Gato Huina. When children twist the entire outer circle a dolphin (in a hidden cutout layer) jumps into the air behind them.

• Labyrinth: Children navigate a zig-zag maze pattern as they move a wooden ship containing Camilla and Lucas through ocean waters to visit four islands to search for gems.

• Movement: Spinning a circular cutout, children uncover images of magical animal friends; magic pearls (glass beads) fall inside the wave cutouts in the porthole.

Wayfinding Signage
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Door signage for hallway rooms will consist of two elements: a porthole with no words but an image of a Healing Tree animal friend (rabbit, turtle, peacock, whale, etc.) placed at a child’s level; and the official room name in words placed at adult height. Signage will be constructed out of MDF and the removable system allows for an easy change as needed.

Personal Artifact/Healing Tree Story
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As with those admitted to Puerto Montt, every child receives a special storytelling artifact that describes a journey of familiar characters that symbolically reflects the patient’s journey into wellness. Children will receive an illustrated story folder depicting Camilla, Lucas, Gato Hunina and other smiling animals. Opening the folder, a 3D ship pops open; Camilla and Lucas use this vessel on their quest to find “The Healing Spring” with the story told in surrounding text.

The child can write their name on the front of the folder, while on the back, parents can place important documents in a cutout flap pocket. The child can carry the folder to future treatment visits.


Give Me Your Hand
by Gabriela Mistral

Give me your hand and give me you love,
give me your hand and dance with me.

A single flower, and nothing more,
a single flower is all we’ll be.
Keeping time in the dance together,
you’ll be singing the song with me.
Grass in the wind, and nothing more,
grass in the wind is all we’ll be.
I’m called Hope and you’re called Rose:
but losing our names we’ll both go free,
a dance on the hills, and nothing more,
a dance on the hill is all we’ll be.