Stefan Kolen

Stefan Kolen, who is studying at The Eindhoven University of Technology, was awarded Joint Second Place in the Architects for Health’s First Student Health Design Award (2007) for the following submission. For contact please email:

Dutch Mountain Asthmatic Clinic, Rotterdam

The city of Rotterdam is currently planning a new hospital. The master plan also contains an asthma clinic built for the residents of Rotterdam. The site of this clinic is situated directly on top of subway station Dijkzigt and is connected to its context by car, bus, taxi and subway. However, this location also has some crucial downsides. Poor air quality and sound nuisance as a result of heavy traffic make it an unhealthy place, especially for asthma patients. The new clinic deals with this problem by introducing a green zone (called Airport) into the building. Within this zone, the air quality is at its best. The Airport is a true heterotopia; a clean park at one of the most air-polluted places in Holland.

Before discussing the clinic it is important to conclude that residents of large cities value access above short distances. The distance in yards doesn’t matter, what matters is the distance in units of time. As Guy Debord stated; “One measures the distances that effectively separate two regions of a city, distances that may have little relation with the physical distance between them”. This viewpoint puts the site of the clinic, thanks to its exceptional accessibility, very close to the residents of Rotterdam.

The green zone or “Airport” is not only restricted to its patients but is also accessible to the public. It is a place where you can step out of the context of the city and catch your breath. Like the Airport, the program of the building is not only asthma related. It also contains public elements like a small movie theatre, restaurant, internet café, etc. This mixture of patients and public functions promotes the incorporation of the clinic in society and prevents isolation of the asthma patients. Because patients often have to stay for a long period of time in the clinic, it really defines their world at that time. It forms the patient’s macrocosm.

New programmatic freedoms arise because the distance in yards is subordinate to the distance in units of time. There are no restrictions to the positioning of the program, as long as the various functions are accessible within an acceptable time frame. This makes a shuffle of the program possible. All functions of the clinic are repositioned according to their specific needs like air quality, daylight, presence of green, view, etc. Reshuffling the program introduces new groups of functions. Each group or “theme” has its own characteristics concerning the use of colour and light, accessibility, structure, etc. Each theme forms a cosmos in its own.

The themes are efficiently stacked to exploit the characteristics of the site. Each theme will be served by one unique elevator (which only stops at that specific theme) to maximize its accessibility. The elevators are carried out as double-deck models in order to reduce elevator shafts and regulate flows of patients and public separately. A slow walkway incorporated in the façade of the building acts as a counterpart of the rapid mechanical elevator routes. This means the building shrinks or stretches according to the chosen route (elevator or walkway).

Grouping the program and providing different experiences of distance enlarges the cosmos of the patient and makes the building appear less restrictive.

The building consists of two volumes; the tower with the various themes and a hotel for long-stay patients. The tower is divided in three parts by its construction. Each part has its own air quality. This enables the patient to choose which type of air quality suits his current needs and helps him discover his own limitations on this level. This kind of self management can also be found in the walkway incorporated in the building façade. This scheme of stairs and ramps teaches the patient to cope with his disorder and to get ready for everyday life.

The main volume of the clinic, the tower, is a very expressive form. The alienation which occurs as a result of this form stands for the heterotopias found within the structure. It is not a building in traditional sense, but rather a collection of differentiated connections.

The building concept provokes interaction between patients and nonpatients and generates various impulses (varying air quality, light intensity, structure). The building contributes to the patients’ process of adjusting to the everyday life and extends their capabilities.

The Architects for Health
First Student Health Design Award
was sponsored by


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