Architects for Health – Visit to St.Charles Community Hospital Feedback

Architects for Health – Visit to St.Charles Community Hospital                      06.07.11


The project was a design by HLM with Interseve as P21 contractor and has been completed for approximately one year.


The Victorian buildings (originally Nightingale wards) comprise long wings with a shallow plan form in an “H” block formation with a central linking spine. The buildings are all listed and required a careful approach to conversion under the watchful eye of English Heritage.

This obviously challenging project provides a series of new departments within an existing shell including and Urgent Care Centre, a GP’s clinic, a small Dental Unit,

an out of hours GP Call Centre and a 66 place Renal Unit.


The external fabric has been maintained along with retention and repair of the large existing sash windows. No double glazing was permitted ensuring that solar gain and heat loss issues would be seasonal problems.

The generous floor to floor heights and large windows provide plentiful light to rooms on the building perimeter. Suspended ceilings are provided as a necessity to conceal services and reduce the verticality of small spaces but are stepped up at external wall perimeters to maximise the effect of the tall windows.

Some internal communication routes are quite narrow as a result of the shallow plan form and maximisation of room dimensions – both challenging the space standards and recommendations of NHS guidance.


A new two storey central glazed link has been provided above an existing single storey connection between the linear Nightingale blocks. This is a tubular steel structure with planar glass walls and roof – a greenhouse environment on the day of the visit –but a solution necessary in architectural terms to appease English Heritage and provide views through the glazing, and between buildings, of an ornately balustraded link beyond.


The overall effect of the conversion is one of a carefully and sensitively planned project with small yet comfortable patient waiting areas and well connected clinical spaces.

Finishes are somewhat understated, artwork is provided as an enhancement to the standard hospital decorative treatment and the habit of sticking notices on any free area of wall has been commendably avoided in this building.


The fact that staff seems generally pleased and happy with their new environment says all that is necessary about this building.


If you took any interesting photos would you share them with us? Please send to  so that they can be put on the AfH website.


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