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38 PROJECT REPORT: HEALTHCARE BUILD & DESIGN


ABOVE RIGHT


Seating areas in circulation corridors enable patients at the unit to prepare themselves when moving from space to space


Briefing


The architects visited autism units in the UK and reviewed projects in the US, to better understand the care methodology and how service users experienced their environments. Yeomans candidly admits that visiting the trust’s existing facilities was difficult: “It’s often quite alarming to see the realities of what this condition is all about, patients will hit their heads against walls, or isolate themselves because they don’t want to communicate.” He adds, “you’d see aggressive incidents, it’s quite difficult to deal with.”


Given the fact that the substantial numbers of clinical staff at the unit worked closely with service users, the architects “relied on them to guide us on what a good patient environment was,” says Yeomans. The architects used a client briefing method- ology they had successfully applied in other projects to discover staff working practices so they can optimise the design to varied needs. Called ‘Perfect Day’, it consisted of a half-day workshop “with a lot of people in the room,” says Yeomans, from head clini- cians to cleaners, describing what their work consists of throughout the day.


The findings are then fed back to all staff, WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK


increasing the sense of ownership of the design, and this forms the beginnings of the brief. Yeomans explains: “You turn these into diagrams, and get to a point where people are happy and understand the fruits of their labours.”


This kind of in-depth consultation was crucial in identifying the key design drivers for such a building, including the ‘thresh- olds of space’ that are critical for the facility’s service users. Yeomans explains further: “Patients need to prepare themselves to move from one space to another. We created seating spaces along the circulation corridors enabling them to see where they were going to sit, and once they are there, they can see where they’re going to go afterwards.”


The unit represents a change in the clini- cal model to assessment and treatment, so that, in Yeomans’ words, “there was a pathway for patients to move on.” He says: “This was quite a sea change, previously they could have been in here for long periods.” The unit replaces the provision at a 1970s building nearby which unlike the Mitford unit, was not purpose-built, and had been “doing the best it could,” says Yeomans, with the typical NHS piecemeal additions over the years.


ADF JANUARY 2018


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