Architects for Health at Charing Cross Hospital

Ann Noble, chair of Architects for Health writes:

Architects working in the health sector frequently express concern that they have limited opportunities to talk directly to and explore and exchange information with clinical staff who will be working in the buildings they are designing. They also find that when the opportunity does occur it is usually too late to reap the maximum benefits from it: fundamental issues being already frozen and not available for reconsideration.

It was therefore both a delight and a rare opportunity for Architects for Health to be contacted by Dr John Pickard of the Anaesthetic Department at Charing Cross Hospital, London and to be invited to present at one of their in-house CPD meetings. Once every six weeks the theatres are closed for the afternoon so that staff can attend.

The interest in the design of hospitals was generated by recent discussions on the possibility of Charing Cross Hospital being closed and the services relocated on the existing Hammersmith Hospital site. Dr Pickard felt that if this should happen, the better informed clinicians are before being required to input to a development process, the better the input they were able to make would be. An opinion that we wholeheartedly endorse.

The meeting began with a ‘conversation’ from Dr David Bamber who talked about the dramatic developments in anaesthesia that have taken place during his professional life and referred to his involvement in the development of the current hospital which opened in 1972. (Providing another example of a hospital; being considered for demolition after 30 years of being in use.)

Architects for Health‘s presentation covered three topics. Roger Ulrich spoke about his work on the importance of the Internal Hospital Environment: including the impact of the internal environment on clinical outcomes, reduction of stress, patient and staff wellbeing, reduction of stress and the spread of infection. Ray Moss focussed on the geometry of hospitals: explaining why different forms were developed and how they have been able to respond to growth, change, shrinkage and adapt to different circumstances. For those hospitals that have been happily occupied over long periods, adapting in a stress free way to different circumstances, Ray identified three key parameters: The necessity of an envelope which encloses a large flexible area, of which the traditional pavilion blocks are a prime example, the importance that the dimensions of the envelope can accommodate different combinations of corridors and rooms and an engineering services strategy which allows easy access to services when the inevitable service changes are required.

The final presentation was given by Tony Monk. Tony selected some case studies of hospitals from his recently published book ‘Hospital Builders’ and thereby introduced the range and scope of health buildings that are available to be learnt from, and to inspire future builders and clinicians to aspire to achieve the best possible buildings. He emphasised the importance of being able to participate knowledgeably in the briefing process if this is to be achieved.

We hope that this seminar may mark a beginning of more direct exchanges between clinicians and architects from which the design of future hospital developments will undoubtedly benefit.

Ann Noble

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