Health \ Acute Mental Health Facility, City Hospital, Belfast, completed in 2018

The practice combined with our colleagues in Belfast, RPP Architects, for the third time to bid for a £20m, 80 bed acute mental hospital on a central city hospital site.  We have successfully collaborated with RPP on our postgraduate student residents for QUB and for the community mental health facility at Old See House, also in Belfast.  On this occasion, we also worked with Devereux Architects who have expertise in mental health design.  Our role in this collaboration was to be the design champion and design leader.  Devereux offered advice and RPP are responsible for implementation. An architectural competition between the six selected teams was held by the NHS Trust and our proposal was selected for development between the design team and the Trust.  

The design is extremely unusual in that it eschews the usual solution of a central corridor arranged into a cruciform plan off which are found individual bedrooms and at the centre of which are found the various social facilities for the individual wards.  By contrast, our plan arranged the five main wards as rooms around a garden with bedrooms on three sides of the garden and social facilities on the other.  A single sided mostly glazed circulation corridor acts as a quasi cloister in each garden.  Wards can then be placed back to back so that a discreet service route serving two wards together with non-patient facilities can be efficiently located.  This arrangement of wards focuses patients on the generous garden space at the heart of each ward and this itself becomes a major facility for the patients to use. Another highly unusual feature of the design is that the five wards are accessed by a circular open cloistered courtyard.  The entrance to the hospital is more of a “gatehouse” connecting the outside world to this circular court.  Patients and visitors pass through this gatehouse and back into the world of the garden before entering their individual ward.  It is hoped that the experience of using the hospital by patients, staff and visitors alike will be one dominated by the experience of moving through and around gardens rather than the usual equivalent of moving through endless corridors.

Individual rooms also benefit from having their own pitched roofs and the entire building is serviced by a first floor services zone so that the maintenance of the building can be completely separated from the clinical areas.  The wards currently consist of male, female, mixed, psychiatry of old age and a psychiatric intensive care unit.  A master-plan for the site identified a second phase to move the psychiatry of old age and allow another mixed ward to become available within the first building.  Car-parking sits between the two phases and access to the new hospital is via a second circular court.  In addition, there is a discreet entrance for distressed patients and also a service entrance.

Architects Richard Murphy, RPP Architects, Devereux Architects
From Richard Murphy Architects Richard Murphy, Graeme Armet, Daryl Robbins, Gareth Jones, James Falconer
Engineers Aecom
Quantity Surveyor Sammon Consultants
Landscape Architect Sturgeon Landscape Architects
Client Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
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