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ARCHITECTURE AND BIOPHILIA


The new £98 m Heatherwood Hospital has what BDP dubs ‘a stunning woodland setting’.


(tuberculosis) sanatorium for children. At the time it was believed that fresh air was essential to patient recovery, so full height ‘French doors’ were provided, with adjacent terraces, so that beds could be taken outside. It was also believed that pine trees were especially beneficial, so a ‘pinetum’ was planted. Today, it is here in this stunning woodland setting that a new state-of-the-art planned care hospital and GP hub will open next year, and where access to nature is at the heart of its design once again.


Placing a modern hospital in a woodland setting


This was a rare chance to place a modern hospital in a woodland setting, making the most of the beautiful natural healing environment. Our design has sought to enhance and celebrate that natural beauty from the moment of approach, through arrival, and throughout the patient’s time in hospital. Like the healthcare on offer at the new Heatherwood Hospital, we took a holistic approach to designing both the masterplan and the hospital buildings, drawing in the landscape to maximise its links with nature, and placing wellbeing at its heart for generations to come.


The front elevation to Heatherwood Hospital, with part of the entranceway stone paved.


The main arrival area to the hospital site is enclosed by woodland, which will be protected and enhanced with planting in celebration of its setting, and in order to screen the adjacent car parking. Semi- mature trees form an avenue along the approach road, providing a structure and threshold to the hospital, complemented by an underplanting of ornamental shrubs. This naturalistic planting scheme blends into a more formal, sensory, and textural planting scheme towards the building complex itself, leading the visitor on a journey through nature into the hospital, and encouraging a sense of calm. Defined by high quality natural stone paving, the generously proportioned main entrance area extends to include the taxi/bus set down/pick-up zone, and creates a legible route linking the shared cycleway to the main steps and lift to the building entrance.


Nature and landscape reflected on two sides


Once inside the main entrance of the planned care hospital, nature and landscape will be reflected on two sides, both from the adjacent, double-height café with views into the woodland setting,


and in front, through glass walls and doors into the courtyard area outside the main waiting space. Patient bedrooms will have views across the treetops, and access to outside terraces supporting the recovery process. All inpatient rooms, where people are likely to stay for longer periods, are on the top floor, where they can enjoy the visual connection with the woodland setting, both near and far. So it’s not just views of the treescape in the distance. In the south-facing rooms it feels as though you can almost touch the trees, and enjoy the life and activity within their branches. With a broad range of species identified – from pipistrelle, noctule, and brown long-eared bats, to woodland birds including cuckoo, song thrush, and yellow wagtail, along with the landscaping designed to protect them, these are expected to be lively and varied natural scenes.


The building and its materials have been carefully selected to respond to its setting, with the main entrance sited at the first-floor level making the most of the tree canopy as a backdrop, and vertical timber cladding on the upper levels offering a notional tree-house. The floor-to- ceiling glass wall of the café space – which is timber rather than aluminium-framed to reflect its setting – will present woodland views and glimpses of nearby nature walks. A large, biodiverse balancing pond making use of the site’s natural run-off will offer an ecologically diverse habitat, with terraced access down to water level on one side allowing safe interaction with aquatic life. The remaining embankments will be planted with marginal aquatic planting, merging into the grassland of the woodland clearing.


A computer-generated image of the café area at Heatherwood Hospital, with its floor-to-ceiling glass wall giving woodland views.


64 Health Estate Journal September 2020


Sensory and textile planting Opportunities to experience nature have been built into public spaces within the building complex, including the communal courtyard which links the main hospital with the GP hub and administration building. This will include semi-mature arboretum trees and sensory and textual


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