• Architecture
  • Health

Whittington Ambulatory Care,



Project Details:

Development and delivery of a new kind of hospital department: an informal, welcoming space that doesn’t feel so institutional.

Client: NHS Trust

Construction Value: £2m

Completion: 2014

Location: Islington

Images: Ben Blossom

Health and wellbeing
Access for all
Child friendly design
Community engagement
Social value
Low energy use
Workspace (office)

Where we started

Local artist Alex Green was commissioned to create the playful illustrations that cover the walls

Whittington Hospital’s plans for an Ambulatory Care Centre involved an innovative new outpatients’ ward offering same-day treatment to prevent longer-term admissions. We were brought in alongside Studio Tilt, with a shared brief to create a welcoming and informal environment that would break down barriers between patients and staff.

Workshops allowed the design to evolve with the people who were going to use it

Initially, Studio Tilt carried out a series of workshops involving patients, clinicians, administrators and senior managers, which unearthed some simple design priorities for the space: clear signage, a communal area and café, and a tranquil setting.

A new play area sits within the centre which has been designed so clinicians can subtly observe children

Facilities are open to demystify procedures and quirky details assist with wayfinding

Patients can get a cup of coffee at the cafe while they wait to see their doctor

Using these findings, Tilt developed design concepts with different spatial arrangements and simple interventions (changing the word ‘Paediatrics’ to ‘Children’s Department’, for instance). Our role was to translate these ideas into detailed plans and deliver the scheme. Crucially, we also had to marry these creative concepts with the practical needs of a hospital: security, sustainability and infection control.


The design splits the centre into a series of dynamic zones, each adapted for different users and uses: a children’s space at one end, adults at the other, and an informal, comfortable café area in the middle. Within this, a number of interventions stand out: the children’s area features child-sized furniture and a play space that allows clinicians to observe children covertly; whilst the nurses’ station provides 360 degree views of the waiting area to ensure waiting patients are stable and safe. At the same time, smaller glazed areas give clinicians space to converse, protecting patient confidentiality.

The design philosophy is perhaps best embodied in the phlebotomy booth. Whilst private when necessary, this is placed in the middle of the communal space to help to demystify and normalise the process: patients can have a blood test, go and get a cup of coffee, then wait to see their doctor in comfort.

The phlebotomy booth's central location helps to normalise the process of giving blood

This project is about people first. It’s about using design to make the experience of being in hospital less terrifying. The aim all along was to make sure all patients feel welcomed and not institutionalised the moment they cross the threshold.

Matthew Goulcher, Managing Director

Booths can be made private if desired

Simple design finishes ensure ongoing practicality

Another significant move was to commission locally based artist Alex Green to design a series of murals. Depicting the wild spaces and swimming ponds of nearby Hampstead Heath, these create a calming backdrop for the space. Elements of these graphics are also used to provide intuitive wayfinding within the building.

Early sketches by Alex Green for wall illustrations

Early sketches by Alex Green for wall illustrations

Early sketches by Alex Green for wall illustrations