Refurbishment turns to new build for Tullamore hospital project
Midland Regional Hospital at Tullamore is a rare example of a new acute regional hospital realised on a green field site, facilitating the ideal delivery of acute healthcare services in Ireland. Ironically, the project began life as a refurbishment and expansion of the very fine 1940’s Michael Scott building and the original brief included for a wide range of Regional Hospital facilities, as well as a new Midland Health Board Headquarters - the latter proposed as a stand alone new building on the site.
Early design and value engineering studies revealed that better value for money would be achieved by using the existing facilities to house the new Headquarters building and constructing a new build hospital on the adjacent part of the site. The approach minimised disruption to the existing hospital operation and patients, reduced decanting and associated costs, and generated long term revenue benefits for the Health Board there being no obstacle to achieving optimal clinical efficiency in the design. Moreover, it was possible to show that the approach was likely to be significantly less expensive than the refurbishment option contained in the brief, a factor which was ultimately proved with the return of tenders in late 2002.
The design approach was largely informed by the need to achieve optimum clinical efficiencies as required in the brief and also to ensure that the design was future proofed to facilitate expansion as a whole and of individual departments whilst avoiding disruption to other core clinical facilities. Major elements which informed the design approach were the maximisation of natural light and ventilation as appropriate to the clinical need; accessibility and the creation of visibly legible way finding routes, genuine patient oriented environments through use of day light, colour and access to views.
The design strategy protects the western and northern facades to permanently address the town and regional approaches respectively. Consequently, the southern and eastern facades are designed to extend in accordance with the clinical need recognising the essentially organic and mutational nature of on-going hospital development. A major glazed entrance concourse, flanked by ward accommodation is provided at the centre of the western façade where it is immediately visible upon entry to the site and signals the major approach to the building. The materials used are high quality reconstituted white stone panels at the upper levels of the building, and natural stone and zinc cladding at ground level, where it will be appreciated by the arriving public and staff.
The whole is crowned by a unique wing structure which unifies the façade composition and which supports the glazed canopy which is elegantly suspended over the forecourt.
The In-Patient wards are arranged to the front of the building overlooking the main landscaped forecourt and taking advantage of the western orientation which is acknowledged as the most beneficial for the longer stay patients within. The wards are provided in efficient 6 bed ward modules shaped around landscaped internal courtyards which provide light and ventilation to both the wards and the hospital street behind.
The rear of the hospital is reserved for the main treatment and clinical areas of the brief where a rectangular modular structure, perforated by regular courtyards, provides appropriate natural light and ventilation to clinical function. These courts are simply landscaped and enhanced with the use of Red Louro and Guariuba Timber cladding panels from Certified Managed forests, which together bring an appropriate human scale to counterbalance and provide a natural foil to the clinical imperatives which must be achieved internally.
The main hospital street and the triple height main entrance concourse form the major architectural experience for visitors, and the architectural expression of the street is informed by the use of warm tones in the floor coverings and high quality timber and stone wall finishes to create a spacious and welcoming ambiance. This is further enhanced by the presence of the main public café and children’s play areas which are deliberately located for that purpose.