Christian Boontjes

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Christian Boontjes, who is currently studying at the TU Eindhoven, The Netherlands, entered the Architects for Health’s First Student Health Design Award (2007) with the following submission. For contact please email:

The LongErasmus Asthma Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


The LongErasmus project (‘long’ is Dutch for ‘lung’) is a proposal for a new type of asthma centre. One of the main problems that the current asthma centres in the Netherlands have is that they are all located in the countryside, often far away from the cities where most people live. Patients being away from home for months at a time risk getting socially isolated. Reintegration to their daily lives and their workplace becomes a drastic and often frightening step. The opportunity to briefly and spontaneously test how they would react to the rigours of the big city is virtually non-existent.

The solution to this is obvious, yet complicated: Place the asthma centre in the middle of the city so patients stay close to their trusted environment. This does introduce a series of new obstacles and challenges. The noise and pollution of a big city are hardly the ideal setting for a healing environment and secondly the space needed for a traditional pavilion style asthma centre often isn’t available. A new building concept is needed.

The LongErasmus asthma centre

The LongErasmus asthma centre is located in the middle of Rotterdam, one of the most polluted cities in the Netherlands. An 18 meter high substructure is the base for two distinct lung shaped towers containing the actual asthma centre. The smaller lung is destined for children, whereas the larger one is for adults. The centre interacts with future plans by EGM Architecten for a new neighboring hospital.

Clean air is an important condition for the well being of lung patients. Installations to achieve clean air are an important asset of the building. A large part of these installations is placed in a constructive shell that runs around the sides of the lungs. These are clearly visible from the outside. At night the installation shell lights up. The colour of the light is determined by the quality of the air measured around the building during the day. Bright red not only indicates what the patients would have been exposed to had they ventured outside the protective lungs but also raises awareness of the pollution people in the city live in. It is expected that on most days the re-used air that is rejected from the lungs is cleaner than the ‘fresh’ outside air around the asthma center. This way the lungs do not only work as an air filter for the patients living inside them but also, even though merely symbolic, help clean the air in the city and thereby set a statement.

The lungs and their interior are designed to form a healing environment for its patients. The area in which we live influences both our physical and our emotional wellbeing. When you are ill and located outside your own home this is even more apparent. Great care is taken to not only design a functional building, but also a building that helps people heal faster and in a more pleasant way. Evidence based design is a way to further improve this healing. Single rooms with personal interior options, views on nature, natural lighting, plants and small quiet gardens are some of the elements used, that are proven to have a positive effect on patients. These elements will help save money in the long run due to shorter revalidation times and reduction of medication used, and will further offer a more pleasant workspace for the medical staff.

Newcomers and very ill adult patients stay at the top of the building, where they live together in a group. Once their health is improving and patients are getting more mobile, they are being transferred to the lower part of the building. During therapy, activities and in their spare time patient from different floors (can) interact with each other. The floors are planned in a way that patients are stimulated to travel up and down the building to follow exercise therapies or to do grocery shopping.

In the second half of their recovery patients will venture outside the protective lungs. The first steps will be made into the main hall at the base of the building. A variety of facilities can be found here, amongst others a museum annex/exhibition centre stimulating the patients and public to engage in art. A large physiotherapist and some specialty stores are positioned in the corner of the hall, mainly for use by former and returning patients. The general use of the hall is to create a place for commuters and passers-by to take a rest, and to offer patients the opportunity to test themselves in the outside world, within a protected environment.

The Drawings

A dense red concrete facade on the North side conterminous with the streets around the building separates and protects the hall from the busy city. A big glass facade on the South side welcomes sunlight into the hall and opens the building to a park. From here a glass corridor also connects the base of the centre with the inside shopping mall of the new hospital.

The installation shell is in the side of the lungs and, together with the construction of the lungs, clearly visible.

The base conceals the entrance to an existing metro station, which means that many people will pass by during the day. Below the ceiling of the hall, just beneath the lungs is a public restaurant with a second training kitchen where patients can participate in cooking classes and help cook bigger meals. To the left is the museum annex. To the right, between the base and the new hospital there is a covered taxi parking meant for patients undergoing radio therapy in the hospital. The visible lung is the children’s lung which partly hangs over the metro.

Newcomers and very ill patients stay and live in a group with the other patients on their floor. Each floor has a different design and it’s own specific functions patients from the whole building will need. The lungs function like a little town and the patients get encouraged to ‘travel’ up and down the lung to follow exercise therapies or to do grocery shopping. Walking up and down stairs is very beneficent for asthma patients. The staircases and rooms around them are different on each floor to make walking up and down the building more interesting.

The collective living rooms are bright, have a nice view over the park and are pleasant to be in. Depending on the setting of the furniture there is room enough for all the inhabitants of the floor to get together. The ceiling is lower to help create a different space from the hallway. In the hallway there are different corners with art and plants and in the middle there is a little green ‘garden’. The patients are responsible for the keeping of these. In certain places the ceiling and the walls of the hallway are covered with sound absorbing cladding which help prevent excessive noises.

The collective kitchen is where all the patients from one floor prepare and eat dinner together. The kitchen is adaptable for use by people in a wheel chair. Asthma patients are very sensitive to smells. To prevent these from going all over the floor the kitchen is extra well ventilated. The kitchen is a pleasant and bright room and the large kitchen table can also be used for other activities during the day. In the corner of the kitchen there is a large closet containing cleaning appliances.

The Architects for Health
First Student Health Design Award
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