A planning application has been submitted for a new community hospital in Consett, designed by Medical Architecture for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, as part of Cohort 2 of the New Hospitals Programme.
Employing ‘a holistic approach to health and wellbeing’, Shotley Bridge Community Hospital is designed to provide opportunities for patients and staff to connect with the outdoors and benefit from nature’s therapeutic qualities. Arranged around two large, landscaped courtyards, it will offer a facilities including outpatient services and diagnostics, an urgent care centre, a medical investigations unit for cancer services alongside a chemotherapy day unit, family health services, and a 16-bed rehabilitation inpatient ward. Medical Architecture said: “Sited on the edge of Consett at a gateway to the County Durham countryside, the hospital will be ideally located to deliver modern healthcare services to the growing local community. The proposed site is located just 1.8 miles from the existing Shotley Bridge Hospital, which will be replaced, as it requires significant investment to maintain the outdated estate.”
The site masterplan and hospital building have been designed to create a new pedestrian and cycle link which connects with the Coast-to-Coast cycle route that runs adjacent, and a new footpath from the town centre. A primary entrance at the front of the building provides access to the inpatient ward and outpatient departments, while a pedestrian entrance on the opposite side connects directly with the new proposed footpath. These are connected by a central public concourse through the building, with a public café, and clear wayfinding to all facilities.
A simple plan, arranged around a pair of courtyards, brings natural daylight deep into the building’s heart, and offers almost all occupied rooms an outside view. The courtyard spaces, with landscape design by ONE Environments, feature planting ‘rich in texture, form and colour’, and have been designed with unique characters for different purposes.
The ‘Serenity Garden’ – accessible to visitors, patients, and staff – features a mixture of open and semi-private seating spaces so people can rest comfortably with family and friends, while The ‘Healing Garden’ has been developed with clinical staff as a private, therapeutic space for patients and staff to aid rehabilitation. Internally, biophilic design principles create an ‘uplifting, non-institutional’ healthcare environment by providing direct and indirect connections to nature.
The hospital is designed as a recognisable civic building, ‘befitting its status as a community’ hospital. Sitting at the entrance of a wider site masterplan envisioned as a parkland, the idea of a ‘pavilion in the park’ was a key design concept – reflected in the human-scale building form, careful composition of a simple material palette, and a landscaping strategy that promotes biophilic interactions.
A colonnaded canopy on either side of the building breaks down the scale, and mediates the transition from the car park and the new proposed public footpath. Carefully articulated thresholds act as welcoming intermediary spaces between outside and inside, and provide legible markers for entrances. Combined with external seating provided between brick piers and generously proportioned windows, these elements help reinforce the message that the hospital is part of the local community.
County Durham is well known historically for the use of sandstone for important civic buildings. Its warm tones, soft hues, and qualities as a hard-wearing, enduring material, convey a reassuring sense of permanence. To draw on this, the predominant external cladding material is a textured, multi light buff brick with similar visual qualities to the local sandstone architecture, while bandings of profiled glass-reinforced concrete panels are introduced to emulate the texture and solidity of stone in a crafted form. An undulating, perforated metal rainscreen is proposed as a crown to the top storey, paying homage to the historic significance of the site as part of the former Consett Steelworks.
The hospital has been designed to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’. Principles of standardisation and repeatability have been adopted to optimise efficiencies and ensure future adaptability. The project is also committed to utilising Modern Methods of Construction. Working alongside MMC consultants, Akerlof, the design team has adopted a framework of core principles, which include design for manufacture and assembly, and the use of prefabricated systems and offsite-manufactured components.
Lianne Knotts, director at Medical Architecture, said: “From very early design stages, the importance of this new hospital was clear, and we set out to design a place that inspires a sense of local pride. The building is welcoming to all, and creates an environment for care that promotes wellbeing and recovery.”
M&E engineers on the project are A.E. Robb & Associates, the structural and civil engineers, Jasper Kerr, and the landscape Architects ONE Environments.