Elaine Neish

Elaine Neish

Elaine Neish, who is studying at The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, was awarded First Prize in the Architects for Health’s Student Health Design Award (2008) for the following submission. For contact please email: E.Neish@dunwoodie-architectureanddesign.co.uk

Children’s Speech and Language Clinic, with educational and research facilities, Forth Street Newcastle Upon Tyne

1.0 LINE OF ENQUIRY

Erving Goffman’s Stigma: – notes on the management of spoiled identity (1963) provides a formal analysis of the features of those who experience stigma and manage the impressions they present to each other in different settings.

Goffman writes that stigmatised people will find themselves in 3 possible kinds of places. Forbidden, out of bounds places where exposure means expulsion. There are civil places, where persons of the individual’s kind, when known to be of his kind, are treated as if they are not discredited. And back places where they need not conceal their stigma.

The 3 types of places stand juxtaposed with personal identity. The forbidden place offers anonymity, the civil a place where one can expect mutual blindess, and the back place he will be a familiar personality.

2.0 THEMATIC FRAMEWORK

The concepts that developed from Stigma, manifests itself in the planning of the buildings, and the spatial relationships created.

The 3 types of space offer differing emotional responses to those who may be ‘stigmatised’.

In the clinic, the forbidden place will offer emotional comfort, offering the children spaces to hide out of view from lots of people, or with more manageable groups, this will be in the circulation zones. The civil places, will be about the children’s visibility in groups, this will happen outside and around the building, and within formal waiting areas. And the back place, will be the first and main interface with the child, the reception and the treatment suites.

Communication, place-making and other psychological and experiential effects evolved through the large and imposing façade to the North of the site. The opportunity to create an ever changing façade from day to night, and in differing weather conditions became important to unlocking the emotional journey of the site.

3.0 FUNCTIONAL PROGRAMME – BRIEF

The ability to communicate is central to all that we do; at work, at home and in our relationships with each other. In the UK, approximately 2.5 million people have a communication disorder of some kind and many of these will have difficulties accessing education, social or career opportunities.

According to AFASIC (Association for All Speech Impaired Children), 1 million children in the UK are affected by the hidden disability of speech, language and communication impairments.

And according to the Royal Collage of Speech and Language Therapists 5% of all children in the UK are entering schools with difficulties in speech and language.

Therefore the project seeks to establish a speech and language clinic for children, with an educational and research facility on site too. The primary objective of the clinic, is to improve the quality and provision of services, and to provide a benchmark facility which will empower children in their respective environments, encourage close relationships with nature, include positive distractions and avoid environmental stressors such as noise, unpleasant smells, having a positive impact on the education achievement and the health of a child.

The clinic will offer – assessment, both formal and informal, observation and discussion; intervention by other linked professionals (psychiatrists, audiologists, dentists); Individual or group therapy sessions; Parental advice; Parent/carer training; School visits; Spaces for play.

The types of spaces which are included in the clinic in particular are –

EXTERNALLY

  • public square and separate green space is designed to improve the children’s development, encourage use by various groups, reflect the history of the site (the Town Wall remnants), and promote community pride
  • courtyards within the building provide imperative closed safe zones for the children’s playground,
  • external green areas act as natural gardens for pedagogic as well as aesthetic purposes.

INTERNALLY

  • reception area is a small and familiar place, the receptionist becoming a friendly familiar face, on a first name basis, the building allows intellectual access, psychologically and navigationally
  • variety of waiting areas, formal and informal
  • formal waiting areas are small enough scale to not become anonymous in, but are large enough to feel that you blend in
  • waiting areas and outdoor spaces should be paired as interaction and learning occurs in both environments, furnishings should be moveable and scaled for children of different age and needs
  • play areas are places to be noisy/climb/hide, to imagine, to run freely inside and out/textures and smells are important
  • circulation zone acts as an overspill for waiting, play and other public areas and to become a populated zone in itself, it also offers crevices and seating areas on smaller scales, resting and pausing spaces are generous, wait, play and assessment areas are easy read from the circulation zone
  • assessment and treatment suites are designed for their specific needs, these are to be calm, with views to the outside world, reduced sensory overload.

The educational facility will include the school of education communication and language sciences (currently housed within campus at University of Newcastle), which will accommodate the teaching facilities specifically for the speech and language sciences degrees. This will provide all facilities including classrooms, lecture theatre, library, education resource centre, clinics, labs and a recording studio. The research facilities are to be the base of research carried out in the field of Child Language. The building will contain and support both the case and clinical based research projects.

4.0 SITE

The site is in Newcastle, and is an historically rich area of land to the East of the old Town Walls.

The proposition is to demolish the existing casino and derelict buildings, to provide the Children’s Speech and Language Clinic, with educational and research facilities. The site has obvious boundaries on all sides, to the North is the Railway line, to the West is the largest remnants of the Town Wall, to the South the natural typography slopes steeply down towards the Quayside, and to the East is Clavering Place and Hanover Street.

The imposition of the railway line to the north and the possible views to the south led to a parti-diagram of creating a barrier to the north of the site, to act as a buffer for noise and create a protective ‘arm’ in tandem with the Town walls. The Town walls become part of the enclosure for the children’s external play areas, adding texture, both historical and physical to their experience at the clinic.

The orientation of the site has great potential in the summer months for public use and proposing a mix of vistas, views, green space and a public square will greatly encourage city people to visit and utilise it, leading to a more populated development where interaction can be used to integrate the building with the community.

5.0 TECHNOLOGY

The technological issues that the project focus on, are in terms of structure and materiality, how the two relate between the two buildings. The educational and research facility are housed in their own block, which correlated in scale and massing to the surrounding context, and the clinic is a much smaller domestic scale building.

The materials for both buildings and the structural system types were to be the same in each building to be read as an architectural language together. The differentiation appears in the detailing of the two buildings.

The clinic has more exposure of the assemblage of the components of the building, almost showing the inquisitive mind of a child, how things are put together, to reveal the expression of the structure and the connections between materials. The education and research block is more finished in detail, with less expression of connections etc, as a more mature building than the clinic. Through this the block would appear to be established and adult, technologically advanced and more institutional in scale and finish. The clinic is more deconstructed, in plan, finish, scale and geometry.

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