We were delighted to welcome a group of around 60 speakers, sponsors, and AfH members at our inaugural South West Regional Event which was held in Bristol and Bath on the 15th and 16th of April 2015 respectively. This 2 day gathering of architects and allied healthcare professionals followed a similar format to that established previously in successful visits in Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, and Liverpool over the last few years. During this period the annual Regional Event has become a highlight in the AfH calendar and we are already making positive plans for next year’s event in a location to be confirmed – watch this space!
15th April 2015 – Southmead Hospital, Bristol
On the first day of the event this year, attendees were privileged to be shown around the stunning new Brunel Building at Southmead Hospital on the outskirts of Bristol by members of the client and design teams responsible for the creation of this flagship NHS facility. Having welcomed our guests over coffee, we were treated to an entertaining and informative presentation on the thinking behind the briefing and design of the new 800 bed hospital by two key members of North Bristol NHS Trust – David Powell (Former Director of Capital Projects) and Tricia Down (Head of Capital Planning and PFI Procurement.
Trying to build a quality PFI presentation
It was very stimulating to hear a clear and enthusiastic explanation of the design quality agenda promoted by the NHS Trust in terms of a commitment to creating a therapeutic environment with a distinct healthcare culture at the heart of the local community, while enhancing the patient experience and easing the process of operational transition from existing facilities to the new hospital. David summarised the Trust’s overall design objectives in terms of the need for innovation, flexibility, connectivity, standardisation, high quality materials, and sustainability. It was encouraging to see these aspirations fully reflected in the architecture and detailing of the building which we subsequently visited. Claudia Bloom of Avanti Architects explained how she had worked with Gordon Benson and the Trust in the pre PFI tender stage to create a high quality exemplar scheme which was adopted as the Public Sector Comparator, based on a masterplanning approach which recognised the suburban setting in an appropriate manner and established a strong sense of place and amenity by extending “green fingers” of landscape between the new and existing buildings on the site. She went on to explain how Avanti had continued to advise the Trust through the later stages of the PFI procurement process and worked closely with the executive architects BDP to ensure that design quality was maintained at all times during the detailed design and construction stages. In their presentation, Andrew Smith and Chris Green of BDP reinforced the importance of this collaboration in their design decision making process and explained in greater depth the architectural and technical features and innovations inherent in the scheme.
(Building Brunel presentation by AS and CG)
To complement this Jane Willis of Willis Newson (Arts Consultants) presented details of the significant and groundbreaking Arts Strategy for both the new hospital itself and the associated transfer of services within the community between the existing and new buildings. Inspiring Care presentation by Jane Willis
After an excellent buffet lunch provided by our hosts, we were escorted in small groups around the new Brunel Building by Trust personnel, who are clearly very proud and happy to be working in this fantastic new hospital. From the impressive and welcoming series of triangular atrium spaces which represent the main public thoroughfare at ground level, we were led through key departments such as wards, outpatient clinics, operating theatres, and emergency receiving areas, the tour culminating in the roof top garden terrace of the staff restaurant, which offered some respite for weary visitors as well as invigorating panoramic views over north Bristol and beyond. At all points on our itinerary, we were extremely impressed by the quality of materials, detailing, and technical innovation achieved in this landmark healthcare project.
In the evening, after our highly enjoyable and informative visit to the Brunel Building, we reconvened as a group in an informal reception with drinks (notably locally brewed ales) at the Architecture Centre on the Narrow Quay in the historical heart of Bristol where we had the opportunity in a relaxed social setting to meet local AfH members and discuss further what we had witnessed and learned earlier in the day.
16th April 2015 – Bristol Royal Infirmary and Royal United Hospital, Bath
As a contrast to our visit to the largely single phase development of the Brunel Building at Southmead, our second day of seminars and study focused on the ongoing multi phased developments on the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Bath Royal United Hospital sites.
CODA architects have been working on the redevelopment of the existing Royal Infirmary site in Bristol for nearly 15 years and during this time have designed a series of outstanding buildings within the context of a comprehensive master plan for this historical and conspicuously sloping urban site close to the centre of the city. Comprehensive architectural drawings were admirably displayed in gallery format to illustrate the various phases of development, including details of the proposals for the elevational transformation of the main Upper Maudlin Street façade – the subject of an international design competition won by Madrid based architects Nieto Sobejano in 2013. We were delighted that Ronnie Rennoldson and Craig Bennet of CODA were able to give us a full presentation of the design thinking behind their redevelopment strategy for the site, followed by a guided tour of some of the buildings and spaces which have resulted from it. We first visited the new children’s hospital, instantly recognisable on the main frontage by the distinctive giant Lollipop artwork adjacent to the entrance. The colourful interiors are clearly child focused and unified across new and existing buildings through a fully integrated arts project devised by Willis Newson, with 75% of the accommodation being provided in existing refurbished buildings and key links to the adjacent ward block being achieved via bridge links at level 5. Our tour around the recently completed separate ward block confirmed that the design of the new building has not been ostensibly constrained by the configuration and structure of the adjacent existing Victorian buildings and displays, as a result, an altogether more generous quality of space, ceiling height, and natural light. The architectural focus of the design is the six storey internal atrium space which acts as an organisational hub for the building at ground level as well as providing a dynamic setting for the large scale suspended Vortex artwork which enlivens the space, improves acoustics, and reflects the history of local cable manufacturing activities.
CODA AFH Tour Boards presentation
A high point of our tour, in more ways than one, was the ascent to the rooftop helipad platform at the highest level within the hospital site, which illustrated the complexities of building on a multi level site of this nature and afforded exhilarating views over all of Bristol.
After a brief look round the Bristol Heart Institute building with its attractive tree lined atrium and interesting public artworks, we climbed to the highest garden terrace which defines the northern boundary of the hospital site – a place of respite and high amenity within the grounds of a busy urban hospital, with birch glades and timber walkways creating a secret little piece of rural Scandinavia in the centre of Bristol.
After a short journey using various modes of public and private transport, our next stop was the Royal United Hospital in Bath where, after a welcome sandwich lunch, we were introduced to the strategic vision for the ongoing development of the hospital site in a presentation by Howard Jones, the Trust’s Director of Estates and Facilities, who outlined details of proposals for a new Cancer Centre and significant improvements to the main entrance approach.
With great sensitivity Nick Brindley of Fielden Clegg Bradley then described his practice’s approach to the design and detailing of the award winning Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care located in an innovative single storey building at the heart of the RUH site. This architectural gem was built using cross laminated timber panel construction throughout and has become a benchmark for current best practice and ongoing evidence based research relative to this specialised type of healthcare environment.
Space to Grow presentation
To complement these architectural initiatives, Andy Parker and Becky Hayward of Buro Happold outlined how they have developed computer modelling software to analyse the utilisation and efficiency of circulation and waiting spaces on the RUH and other hospital sites with a view to informing the briefing and design processes. These highly stimulating presentations were followed by lively group discussion and a tour of the recently completed laboratory block and the Dyson Centre.
Presentation from Buro Happold
Despite a fairly hectic programme over the two days concerned, feedback on the event has been very positive with many participants confirming that the combination of design seminars and building visits provide an ideal format for promoting design excellence and reinforcing the importance of good design in the creation of healing environments. Many thanks to our sponsors Rockfon, HEWI, Guldmann, Laing O’Rourke, and Crown House, without whom such events would not be possible.
Leslie Welch, AfH Executive