Case Study

Cayuga Medical Center | Cayuga Birthplace


Cayuga Medical Center (CMC) is a 204-bed facility with over 1200 healthcare professionals, and a medical staff of over 200 affiliated physicians. It is located in Ithaca, NY on a hillside with sweeping views of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York.

An increase in the birth rate in the service area had created a demand for more space in the maternity unit.  This demand combined with the rising trend towards more homelike environments in a hospital setting was the impetus behind the decision to build a new birthing center on the medical center’s campus. Ithaca and its surrounding area is a community where many families choose home birth versus hospital setting for their birth experience. A goal of the project was to bridge the gap between these options by providing a warm, homelike setting within a safe healthcare environment.

The project study recommended relocating and expanding the maternal health unit to an easy-access ground floor location where in addition to improving the availability of services, the plan would allow CMC to brand the service as a family-friendly experience. Thus Cayuga Birthplace was born. It is a 18,000sf, state-of-the-art maternity wing that provides improved women’s health services, supporting Cayuga Medical Center’s high standards of quality, innovation, and rapidly growing client base.


Cayuga Birthplace was designed and built with the mother’s ideal experience in mind, creating a space offering both the comforts of home with the safety of the hospital, in a spa-like environment that is welcoming, soothing and calm and supportive of family involvement in the birthing and newborn care experience.

The new wing was developed on an LDR/Post-partum model and is flexible to accommodate changes in the census. HOLT designed the rooms to be multi-functional - serving the needs of a single family NICU as well as be used as a post-partum room. Increased comfort during labor and delivery was further achieved through an easy access ground floor location and the inclusion of positive impact items such as spacious, private rooms with whirlpool tubs and family areas with sleeper beds in each room.

Channeling the mother and family experience and journey helped the project team to fully understand the design problem, and fostered focus on the following:

  • Arrival and circulation areas offer the first impression of confidence and competence. It is elegant, light, warm and welcoming, and sets a tone for the rest of unit with the colors and materials of nature.
  • Labor, Delivery and Recovery is located at end of the unit. Rooms are grouped around the nursing station for maximum visibility. A C-Section operating room is embedded within this area for quick and easy access without going outside the unit. The elegant, hotel room-like settings, large and comfortable family zone, spa-like bathroom, soothing and dimmable lighting, and connection to daylight all contribute to a calming experience. 
  • Ante/Post Partum Rooms offer a soothing environment, family zone, with hospitality elements and details, personalization, and personal controls. 
  • Nursery, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Single Family Room (SFR) NICUs are soothing for parents and babies, comfortably spacious for family and nursing staff, and can be used by mother or baby post-partum.  SFR NICUs can be monitored from the corridor through individual controlled privacy windows.

Project Features

  • Six private labor and delivery rooms (LDRs) are spacious and include comfortable, flexible furniture for family, with whirlpool tubs in a spa-like setting
  • 12 post-partum rooms
  • Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has four bassinets in addition to four single-family rooms that allow for individualzed and family-centered infant care
  • Cesarean-section operating room is located within the labor and deliver suite making access seamless during emergencies and offering increased safety of the babies and mothers when surgery is necessary
  • Enhanced security measures in the new ward to ensure the safety of families and babies
  • The project is LEED for Healthcare Certified
  • Cayuga Birthplace elevated CMC to a Level II facility per The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Contact Paul Levesque, AIA at 607-273-7600 ext 135 or for more information.