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ARCHITECTURE AND BIOPHILIA


Building in landscape for a more ‘natural’ experience


Martin Jones, Landscape director at international architects BDP’s Bristol studio, considers some of the most effective ways to build access to nature into hospital design to aid recovery and wellbeing, and describes how the practice has recently successfully accomplished this at two high-profile new hospitals in very different settings, one in England and the other in Wales.


A CGI image of the main entrance to the Grange University Hospital. BDP says it ‘made the conscious decision to run the countryside right up to the building – wrapping around it’.


When I started my career in landscape architecture many years ago it soon became clear that there was work to be done in convincing clients that landscape design needed to be an integral part of the design process from an early stage, not just a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on to satisfy landscaping conditions. Nowhere more so was this the case than in healthcare. Buildings were seen as inward-looking, functionally efficient clinical plans, and delivery platforms for new medical technologies. Budget was everything,


with very little allowance or value placed on the external environment. Words like ‘nature’, ‘sustainability’, ‘placemaking’, and ‘wellbeing’ were not part of the dialogue. Then an academic called Roger Ulrich used scientific research to demonstrate how access to nature, gardens, and art can lessen pain, stress, and healthcare costs. He wrote about how important access to nature could be to the healing process, demonstrating the positive health outcome of a view through a window onto greenery rather than a brick


wall. Since then, numerous studies have examined the relationship between the physical environment of hospitals and health outcomes, including how offering patients access to nature has been shown to help alleviate pain, speed up recovery, and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of patients, visitors, and staff alike. Put simply, that is why access to nature is such a prominent aspect of our work in healthcare design. From Southmead Hospital in a densely populated, urban area of Bristol, to the new Grange University Hospital in the Welsh countryside, nature is reflected, integrated, and designed into, the hospitals we work on from the outset.


Link between nature and recovery not new


Home to a hospital for almost a century, Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot (here shown circa 1922) was originally a TB (tuberculosis) sanatorium for children.


While Ulrich popularised the concept and approach, the link between nature and recovery was not a new one. It could be argued that the roots of evidence-based design go back as far as 1860, when Florence Nightingale identified fresh air as ‘the very first canon of nursing’, and emphasised the importance of warmth, quiet, proper lighting, and clean water. Take Heatherwood Hospital, a new £98 million facility currently under construction in Ascot designed by BDP for Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust. Home to a hospital for almost a century, the facility was originally a TB


September 2020 Health Estate Journal 63


©RIBA


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