The Ark launched in September 2019 as a new highly sustainable facility for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice, specifically designed to support children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their families.
Situated within a 7.5-acre nature reserve in Barnet, North London, The Ark is the first new hospice building in London for ten years, and will allow the charity to increase the scale and quality of their work with children and families.
The building was designed and delivered by Squire & Partners, with landscape by Gensler, as part of a team of high profile built environment professionals working collaboratively to support the Build The Ark appeal.
The brief from Noah’s Ark sought an inspiring space for palliative care, relaxation and adventure within a ‘home from home’ environment – as an evolution of the approach taken with Maggie’s Centres or Teenage Cancer Trust HUBs to design a centre specifically for the needs of children living life as a child.
The aim was to create an uplifting environment for children to be children, not just patients, and encourage young people and their families to connect with others facing similar challenges.
Establishing a relationship with the surrounding landscape was a priority, as well as providing a focal point for social interaction between the volunteers, community outreach workers and family visitors who use the facility.
The design was conceived as a welcoming space which acts as a peaceful sanctuary for children, as well as a place of joy and discovery where families are able to enjoy time together with support and encouragement from the Noah’s Ark team.
Set on the natural incline of its nature reserve setting, The Ark is discreetly carved into the hillside providing a single storey at the entrance, adding a lower level to the rear as the site slopes away.
The building is designed to have a strong connection with its natural setting – seen as an important contributor to wellbeing and the healing process. Conceived from a broadly square shaped building with landscaped gardens eroding each of the four sides, the concept evolved to sculpt a butterfly shaped plan – the symbol of the children’s hospice movement, depicting a brief but beautiful life.
A palette based around natural materials features textured brick and an exposed timber structure. The double height oak framed entrance hall, fully glazed at each end, creates a light and striking open volume as an uplifting space for families to come together and socialise. Colour is added with furniture, while downlighters and pendant lights create warm tones.
Four brick-clad wings run off the central hall, with a section each for therapies (including areas for soft play, sensory play, a music therapy room, an art room and a cinema room), children’s bedrooms, families rooms and administration. At lower ground level more private functions include bereavement suites, a multi-faith room and staff facilities.
Each room within the facility has a link with the landscape via large windows/doors and openable timber panels, creating a domestic rather than medicalised environment. Bedrooms for children and families have poster boards and desk spaces to quickly and easily personalise spaces, and are designed to cater for the cultural diversity of families in the area - including adjoining rooms to allow for separation of genders, and PIR lighting for Jewish families during Sabbath.
The Ark is designed so that children’s beds and mobility equipment can be moved throughout the building as well as onto large south facing external decks, encouraging them to engage in a variety of activities during their time at the centre
The Ark will be the first time a bio-solar green roof with 185 photovoltaic panels has been used in the UK, generating significant amounts of electricity for the building.
Harvesting all rainfall via a surface draining system, the green roof mitigates flooding risk on the sloping site and reuses water within the landscape irrigation system.
Electric car points are provided in the entrance garden.
The clinical brief centred on making spaces for children with diverse needs allowing as wide range of play activities and experiences as possible, while maintaining cleanliness, hygiene and control of infection as set out in the Department of Health’s Building Notes guidance.
Special care was taken to ensure that wheelchairs and beds are able to access virtually all spaces including external terraces and gardens, with inbuilt hoists creating a fully accessible environment.
Specification of materials has taken ino account the need for them to be resilient and easily cleaned, but incorporating natural materials and colours wherever possible.
The brief for the management of care led to in-depth discussions on positioning of nursing stations, cleansing facilities and treatment rooms to deal with issues around separation of laundry and waste, pharmacy security and emergency systems.
In a sector of care that is still developing with new advances in treatment, the design has also considered adaptability and evolution of the care which may be provided in the future with flexibility being built into the design to facilitate this.
Connection with Landscape
Situated within an extraordinary setting, lying at the northern edge of the London Borough of Barnet, the peaceful location allows Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice to facilitate the grieving and healing process by allowing children, friends and families to be immersed in a natural environment within the catchment of the city.
The landscape design takes full advantage of the benefits that a mesmeric nature experience can provide. The scheme centres around the analogy of an Infinity Ribbon; which physically manifests as an organic and accessible path that threads the building and the landscape together, creating a multi-sensory journey that will help stimulate behavioural, physiological, and neurological changes in the children, their families and carers.
Located on the eastern side of the hospice the “Entrance Garden” - conceived as a welcoming, beautiful terraced landscape with different plants and access points - creates an opportunity for both social interaction and reflection. The “Staff Terrace” provides an area of respite for carers close to the “Horticultural Garden” with its raised accessible planter beds that can be used by the children and their families for gardening.
On the western side, the “Sensory Garden” provides a restorative place where vegetation and level changes stimulates the senses in order to gain a higher physical and psychological awareness. The sensory experience happens along an organic timber pathway that connects the “Observation Terrace” and the “Play Area” with the nearby Nature Reserve.
Finally, the private and tranquil “Contemplation Garden” located on the north side, sits next to the bereavement suites where families can find peace and comfort in their grieving process.
The project has been achieved through a unique collaboration between the design, property and construction sectors, who have come together to support the charity in their Building the Ark appeal. The team includes Squire & Partners (architect), Gensler (landscape), JLL (planning/project management), Pears Property (client advisors), Ramboll (structure), 8Build (contractor) and Erith Demolition.
Collaborators have been involved in all stages of the development - from concept and fundraising through to planning and delivery – making the project possible by working on either a pro bono or non-profit basis. Countless suppliers have also donated either free or heavily discounted products for the build, including Jewson’s (timber), Carpenter & Oak (oak frame), SAS (ceiling tiles, Ardmore (joinery) and Dreams (beds).
A huge personal commitment from the project team has also contributed to fundraising, including Squire & Partners Director Barnaby Johnston running the London marathon and Gensler Associate Alicia Gomez and Jessica Harding running the North London Half Marathon in support of The Ark.
Services provided by Noah’s Ark
Noah’s Ark will offer a range of children’s palliative care services for babies to 18 years olds that are not currently available in North London through the specialised and supportive setting of a children’s hospice building.
Services will include: Delivery of 24-hour end-of-life-care; Post-death care, including 24-hour family access to their child’s body and bereavement counselling in dedicated bereavement suites; Sensory, music and art rooms; and specially designed gardens and surroundings to provide sanctuary and peace for children and families.
This is the first purpose built facility for Noah’s Ark, who previously provided care for families in homes or hired halls, and will serve up to 30 children and their families at one time.
Quote from The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (who formally opened the building on 26 September 2019)
“Noah’s Ark has been a beacon of light for the children and families it serves, so I’m delighted that they have a brand-new home. The Ark will ensure that children across north and central London receive the best possible care and support.
It’s a children’s hospice that has been built by the community for the community, and is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when Londoners work together.”
Quote from Noah’s Ark Ru Watkins, Chief Executive of Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice “It’s wonderful that our families’ vision for has been realised for a children’s hospice in North London filled with life and light. It’s an iconic building and the perfect environment for children to receive their care and for families to receive support.”
“The building, construction and property industries have been inspirational in enabling this project to reach completion. It’s rare that such diverse industry bodies work together, but we’re extremely grateful that they’ve enabled us to build The Ark, the children’s hospice London has been crying out for.”
Quote from Squire & Partners Murray Levinson, Partner at Squire & Partners “Once we discovered the wonderful work Noah’s Ark was doing for families in North and Central London dealing with an unimaginable situation, the decision to support them in designing a new hospice building was easy. The team at Noah’s Ark focus on bringing joy into the children’s lives - we wanted to create a building which amplified that experience. Our concept always focused on the experience of a child, creating a building set into the landscape with wings like outstretched arms which invite families into the heart of the building, a double height timber framed central hall full of light and life. Squire & Partners are extremely proud to have been involved in the conception and delivery of The Ark, and have truly enjoyed working with Ru and his amazing team to help the charity realise their ambitions to care for children and provide support for their families.” Quote from Gensler Alicia Gomez, Associate “As designers we have a huge responsibility to deliver high-quality environments that facilitate the connection between people and place, and improve their physical, psychological and social wellbeing. Understanding the stress that clinical environments can cause, the landscape at Noah’s Ark was designed to provide a safe and restorative outdoor setting where the children and their families find respite and comfort.
Noah’s Ark will offer a holistic indoor-outdoor care journey that is not restricted to treatment rooms but that begins upon arrival, expands through the building and continues to the therapeutic gardens, demonstrating the ultimate link between palliative care, wellbeing and nature.”