Architects unveil vision of new sustainable paediatric hospital


Project 5 Architecture behind London\'s new children\'s hospice talk about their vision for the future delivery of palliative care services

JO MAKOSINSKI speaks to the architect and client behind the design of the proposed Noah’s Ark children’s hospice in north London and finds out why it will have such a big impact on the lives of those who will use it

When Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice charity first sought to build a new facility in the capital, location was a key consideration; and securing greenbelt land in the heart of a nature reserve provided the perfect setting for a design centred on the circle of life.

Whether standing in the picturesque grounds outside the new hospice, or within its walls, the team hopes the connection with nature will be apparent. This link to the outside world is one of the key drivers behind the proposed development, and one of the ways in which the team will create an environment that offers much more than the institutionalised feel of many traditional health and social care facilities.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the nature of the hospice’s work, the new facility will be a vibrant, positive place, providing a home-from-home for severely-ill children and their families.

Gill Dodge, chief executive of the charity, told BBH: “We do not want the hospice to feel institutional or like a hospital, although at the same time it has to be an environment in which we can deliver the highest standards of medical and social care.

“We worked really hard with the architects to understand how people would be using the spaces and what would be happening, both inside and outside the building. We are trying to make this a really human space, providing a positive environment that feels like home and, much more importantly, is a place people want to come to.

“The design had to incorporate our basic requirements in terms of facilities, but it also had to be a fitting building for what is a wonderful environment. As a team we talked a lot about the link between the building and the nature that surrounds it. In the hospice we see the circle of life and this is also what is going on around the building, so we embraced this vision.”

Architect, Mary Plowman, of Project 5 Architecture led the team charged with making this dream a reality, and the resulting design not only blends sympathetically into its surroundings, but will also serve to enhance the area through the introduction of environmentally-friendly technologies, such as a sedum roof, photovoltaic panels and an air source heat pump.

An artists impression of the South West elevation of the hospice building which reaches out onto the greenbelt land on the nature reserve

An artists impression of the South West elevation of the hospice building which reaches out onto the greenbelt land on the nature reserve

The 2,000sq m building, which is mainly one storey with a lower ground floor where the site naturally slopes, will provide six children’s bedrooms, each with a shared ensuite bathroom; four large and flexible family rooms; daycare facilities; a bereavement suite; and administration and support facilities, eventually serving as the charity’s head office.

Plowman said: “There has been considerable consultation about this project, involving the staff, the charity’s board of trustees, children and local residents. The team has also been to look at a number of other hospices across the country.

“The most important thing throughout the design process has been to try to provide an environment for the children that is as normal and homely and as comfortable and welcoming as it can be.”

The children’s bedrooms are all located on one side of the building with fantastic views over the surrounding landscape. Internally, the rooms are close to nursing support areas, communal areas, daycare facilities and to semi-private outdoor deck areas.

The building itself wraps around a central courtyard overlooked by many of the key internal spaces.

Plowman said: “We want the courtyard to be a very active area with lots of interaction between staff, the children, and their carers and families. There is also the wider landscape, where there will be a boardwalk in the trees and a jetty into the meadow. In addition, we are providing a bereavement suite with rooms both for the child’s body and for the family to be alone and that too will have access to an external garden of contemplation. The whole design is taking much inspiration from the site itself. ”

Designed by Project 5 Architecture, the new Noahs Ark hospice building will be a flagship for the future delivery of paediatric palliative care services

Designed by Project 5 Architecture, the new Noahs Ark hospice building will be a flagship for the future delivery of paediatric palliative care services

These outdoor spaces will be the work of Area Landscape Architects, which is partnering with Project 5 on the scheme. A spokesman for the company said: “Contact with the outdoors and nature – space to breathe - is essential for those who are living with serious illness. In this most sensitive environment, children, families, staff and other visitors deserve the very best spaces, and so in close consultation with the client and users we are planning a wide variety of beautiful outdoor spaces with a wide range of functions, from natural play to quiet contemplation.

“We have included a range of different play spaces, carefully integrated with the wider setting, to provide as many opportunities as possible within the safety of the hospice grounds for children who are patients and their visiting siblings and friends.”

Wheelchair access has been considered throughout the gardens and within the building itself and inside there will be dedicated areas for children of all ages, including a teenage zone. For families, there will be private kitchen and dining spaces, as well as a main kitchen and dining area for patients and staff within the main hub of the hospice.

“We have designed the building to make the most of natural daylight and ventilation,” said Plowman. “We are trying to make it as easy as possible in terms of the maintenance needed in the future. All windows are timber, but aluminium clad to reduce maintenance. In order to fit in with the surrounding landscape there is natural timber boarding over much of the exterior, which weathers really nicely. The building will also be well insulated to keep running costs low. This is particularly important for a charity as it is often easier to raise cash for capital projects, but less easy to raise the money to keep the buildings running day to day.

“Inside the hospice we will keep the décor relatively neutral and calm, with artwork on the walls to provide colour, texture and something to look at and talk about.”

Dodge added: “Throughout this design process we have wanted the grounds to cascade naturally into the building and we have wanted to provide an environment that, while safe, does not feel like a fortress. We are thrilled with the resulting design and cannot wait to see it become a reality.”

The team will shortly begin looking for a construction partner and hopes to move onto the site in late 2012.