Foster + Partners' first hospital opens for business
CircleBath is Foster + Partners’ first hospital and the first in a programme of new independent hospitals which offer a radical departure from orthodox approaches to hospital planning. The project is the first of a chain of health campuses across the UK commissioned by Health Properties for Circle, a privately funded initiative that places patients at the centre of a new approach to healthcare. Everyone in the hospital – whether a surgeon, nurse or porter – is regarded as a ‘partner’ in the delivery of health care, with a common goal of promoting patient well-being.
The compact, democratic design encourages a sense of community and well-being with facilities more comparable to a luxury hotel rather than a traditional hospital. The three-storey hospital is set into the hills on the edge of protected green belt nine kilometres south east of Bath. It is planned around a central light filled atrium, promoting a sense of orientation and intimacy that is commonly lacking in larger hospitals. The northern façade comprises dark panelling at the lower levels, while on the south, extensive glazing opens out to views over the surrounding rolling countryside. Appearing to float above this recessive skirting, the rectangular upper volume and roof, enclosing all twenty-eight bedrooms, is clad in a reflective lattice of aluminium shingles.
The double-height atrium forms the focus for patients, staff and visitors, with private consultation rooms leading from it at ground level and in-patient bedrooms arranged around it above. Daylight is drawn through circular sky lights into the atrium, softened by a translucent fabric ribbon tracing the shapes. The colour palette is a warm and friendly mix of ochre and rust, with natural wood acoustic panels above, interspersed with glass panels providing a visual connection to the atrium from the bedroom floor. Divisions between departments are minimal, easing the stress involved in consultation, treatment and recovery for patients and reducing walking distances for staff.
There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that a well-designed hospital environment can reduce recovery times and contribute to better outcomes for patients. Throughout the building, there is an emphasis on natural light and views: operating theatres and recovery spaces on the lower level are fully glazed to the south, looking out on to a private garden. The bedrooms on the upper floor look out onto balconies, planted with herbs and shrubs, lining the building’s perimeter and oriented to maximise views across the countryside.