Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
CircleBath in England by Foster + Partners
July 2nd, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Foster + Partners
CircleBath is Foster + Partners’ first hospital and represents a radical departure from orthodox approaches to hospital planning. The three-storey building is set into the hills on the edge of protected green belt nine kilometres south east of Bath and its compact arrangement provides a ‘corridor-less’ environment, encouraging a sense of community and well-being.
There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that a well-designed hospital environment can reduce recovery times and contribute to better outcomes for patients, while providing a more attractive workplace for medical staff. Circle is a privately funded initiative which is building a chain of health campuses in the UK that will place patients at the centre of a new approach to healthcare. Circle Bath is among the first of these new centres to be realised. The architectural ambition has been to re-cast the hospital building as a humane and civilised place for all those who use it. Everyone in the hospital – whether a surgeon, nurse or porter – is regarded as a ‘partner’ in the delivery of health care, with a common goal of promoting patient well-being.
The building provides operating theatres, bedrooms, consultation, treatment and recovery spaces, and offers both in-patient and out-patient accommodation. A compact design encourages a sense of community and well-being. The hospital is planned around a central light filled atrium, promoting a sense of orientation and intimacy that is commonly lacking in larger hospitals. Divisions between departments are minimised, easing the stress involved in consultation, treatment and recovery for patients and reducing walking distances for staff. The double-height atrium forms the focus for patients, staff and visitors, with private consultation rooms leading from it at ground level and in-patient bedrooms arranged around it above. The main reception point, café and nurses’ station occupy the atrium where daylight, drawn through the circular sky lights, is softened by a translucent fabric ribbon tracing the shapes. The colour palette is a warm and friendly mix of ochre and rust, with natural wood acoustic panels above, interspersed with glass panels providing a visual connection to the atrium from the bedroom floor.
The building is dug into its hillside site, its profile kept low. Public entry is from the road on the north directly into the atrium on the ground level floor. The northern façade comprises dark panelling at the lower levels, while on the south, extensive glazing opens out to views over the surrounding rolling countryside. Appearing to float above this recessive skirting, the rectangular upper volume and roof, enclosing all twenty-eight bedrooms, is clad in a reflective lattice of aluminium shingles. Throughout the building, there is an emphasis on natural light and views. Balconies line the building’s northern and southern edges, oriented to maximise views across the surrounding rolling countryside. Sympathetic landscaping further emphasises the therapeutic natural environment – an overall approach very different from more familiar hospital surroundings.
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