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