Set in a suburban residential area, North London Hospice is distinctive and dignified. Before the charity opened this new day centre, all services were delivered out of its facility in Finchley. Responding to a significant increase in demand, the new centre triples the charity’s capacity to serve up to 300 of the 800 people per month diagnosed with a life-limiting illness in North London. Patients and their carers are encouraged to drop-in for a chat, join in creative therapies or undergo treatments.
Client & Brief
North London Hospice has provided care and support services for outpatients from Barnet, Haringey and Enfield for almost 20 years. The Charity’s vision is that everyone living in the London Boroughs of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey should receive the specialist palliative care that they require to minimise their symptoms, maximise their quality of life and to live and die with dignity. In 2009 the Charity approached Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) with a view to increasing the provision of palliative care in the community of Enfield.
The site, located in a suburban area of Enfield, North London, was previously occupied by a disused NHS health clinic known as ‘The Laurels’. In recent years the building had fallen into disrepair and was derelict. Neighbours, local residents and planners welcomed the demolition and subsequent erection of a new building.
Set on a prominent corner in a quiet residential area of north London, the massing of this brick building is broken down into two north facing gables with circulation interleaved between. A single-storey multi-pitched extension at the rear completes the L-shaped plan and frames a south-facing private courtyard for the enjoyment of patients. Conceived from both the inside-out and the outside-in, the expansive windows set around a simple palette of brick and timber, ensure a series of light and airy spaces that are well-connected – both physically and visually – with their external environment.
An ‘open house’
A generous porte-cochère receives visitors into a meet-and-greet space, leading through to a large multi-purpose daycare room and open plan kitchen and café area. Smaller rooms for creative therapies, a rest room, sluice and a hairdresser support the key ground floor spaces whilst the first floor houses clinical, interview and teaching activities. The pitched attic spaces at second floor house offices and a staff room, which also enjoys a recessed balcony lined with a GRP brick soffit.
One of the driving design principles was the desire to offer patients views and access to the north and south courtyards. Large expanses of full-height glazing at ground level open out onto gardens whilst balconies at first and second floor offer external amenity space to staff. In addition, the brick work is drawn into key internal spaces such as the entrance, kitchen and daycare rooms to emphasise connectivity between inside and out with the added benefit that the roughness of the brickwork provides acoustic absorption.
Materials & Method of Construction
This is a steel frame building, clad in brick with a large insulated cavity that allows the building to achieve U-values that exceed building regulation requirements and help fulfil the Charity’s sustainable agenda. All steel and pipework is concealed within the cavity, with brick slip access panels located externally at lower levels thus maintaining clean façades.
The exact location, size and detailing of each window was carefully considered to maximise light, natural ventilation and frame views. In several instances brick reveals, sills and adhesively bound head bricks have been deployed to make the windows appear ‘frameless’ and enhance connectivity.
The choice of a light textured brick was an integral part of early design stages, planning and followed throughout detailing and construction. Both client and architect wanted to building to feel airy to instil a domestic sense of well-being.
The acoustic performance of the rooms was a key consideration for hearing impaired visitors, and highly absorbent, very fine textured plaster and brick were selected to reduce sound. In smaller, non-clinical rooms, such as interview rooms where bereavement counselling might take place, soft furnishings and carpets have been specified to absorb sound and create a more private and cosy environment. In these rooms, free standing lamps and dimmable lighting help create a non-intrusive environment for patients and families. Throughout the building all WCs are designed for disabled use with contrasting finishes on all doors that visually contrast with adjacent wall colours.
The design and management for reduced mobility is a large component of palliative care. To reduce walking distances, a small car park has an additional entrance and exit to permit private ambulances and cars to reach the canopy and deliver patients directly to the main entrance.
Passing through the draft lobby, visitors enter a meet and greet area with sofas and a recessed information screen. A large floor to ceiling corner window immediately connects visitors to the landscape beyond. The landscaping layout and seating has been designed to allow wheelchair users to circulate in between planting beds and join fixed seating areas. The south facing courtyard is completely level and contains a series of bespoke benches, whose height, back and arm rests have been designed to suit the ergonomic needs of patients.
The client stipulated a highly energy-efficient building. This was achieved by focusing on increased air tightness, increased thermal insulation and a heat recovery system.
Background ventilation in winter is provided by a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery. For the rest of the year, the building is designed to be naturally ventilated through openable windows. In addition, solar collectors, rainwater butts and a Ground Source Heat Pump (operating at an efficiency of up to 146%) all assist in fulfilling the Charity’s green agenda.
Externally, sustainable drainage strategies have been implemented to attenuate the effects of drought and floods in the UK, especially in the South East region of the UK. The design and specification of hard surfaces and build ups within the landscape design assists the drainage of surface water in a sustainable manner. For instance, the top surface of the car park is a porous resin bound aggregate and the sub-base has a 30% void ration. The green roof over the one storey day care extension equally helps reduce ground water run-off.