Claiming that 'we believe that people should stay somewhere great when they're not feeling so great' Circle employed Foster to design a building where the senses of comfort and community are heightened in line with their novel approach to ownership which sees each hospital 'owned' by its employees regarding each employee as a 'partner'.
Expected to open to both private and National Health Service patients in February, CircleBath, unsurprisingly given Foster's involvement, will be more akin to a hotel or high-end business centre than a hospital. Spread across just three levels the hospital is set into the hills on the edge of a protected green belt near Bath.
“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, while providing a more attractive workplace for medical staff. This is Foster + Partners’ first hospital building and its design is democratic, putting the patient at the heart of the system in a space that does not feel institutionalised and instead takes advantage of the rural setting, the light and the views.”
The external design is elegantly simplified with lower level dark panelling on the northern facade and extensive glazing to the south allowing views over the surrounding countryside. Above the recessed skirting floats a rectangular upper volume clad in 'a reflective lattice of aluminium shingles', say the architects. Patients and visitors are welcomed into the hospital via a large light-filled atrium forming the centre of the building and a solid point of navigation.
Operating theatres, consultation, treatment and recovery spaces, and 28 bedrooms for both in-patient and out-patient accommodation are provided in light-filled surrounds with a warm and luxurious décor. Each area is linked to the internal atrium or the natural surroundings or both via glass panels and windows to the outside world. Even the operating theatres and recovery spaces on the ground floor look out to a private garden to the south. 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. Sympathetic landscaping emphasises the therapeutic natural environment to create the opposite of an institutional atmosphere.
Divisions between departments are minimal, easing the stress involved in consultation, treatment and recovery for patients and reducing walking distances for staff.