A cut above...

Friday 22 Jun 2012

SOM and Woods Bagot crowned winners of 2012 WAN AWARDS Healthcare sector

This year’s WAN AWARDS Healthcare sector winners are an excellent example of patient-based design. For some, judging the unbuilt category for any sector is harder than judging completed projects as one has to make winning selection based not upon a buildings resolution, but by the intent of the architects. The healthcare category adds further challenges as each scheme requires hugely varying complexity to resolve its programmatic needs: a small clinic does not require much complexity in its layout but may be a stunning piece of architecture. As a contrast to this large, multi-purpose hospitals will show highly resolved, extremely complex floor plan layouts but sitting within uninspiring architecture.

With this in mind, we are delighted to announce that the winners of the 2012 WAN AWARDS Healthcare Sector are The St. Vincents O'Brien Centre in Sydney, Australia by Woods Bagot (completed) and SOM’s (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP) Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (unbuilt).

The St. Vincents O'Brien Centre in Sydney, Australia by Woods Bagot is a building focused on the wellbeing of the patients and there has been great thought put into creating flexible, well lit spaces that create a sense of community and encourage a social aspect to the healing process. Woods Bagot have gone beyond the brief in terms of the level of detail applied to this building, to the level of designing window seating that encourage the patient to sit there, integrating natural light and nature as a key way to alleviate stress.

When thinking of mental health facilities in the past which are very clinical and restrained, some of which share similarities to prisons, this design is a world apart, redefining how we see mental health within society, embracing it, creating a comfortable rather than imposing environment for the patients to live in. St. Vincents O'Brien Centre as a mental health facility, focusing on helping the youth of Australia in a bid to prevent to the young mentally ill being admitted to adult facilities. This will massively improve the level of care the younger patients receive as it allows for a far more caring environment to heal and repair the young people’s minds, from between the ages of 16 and 30. The facilities aim to provide much more support for the families and the individuals in care.

By integrating vibrant colours and a flowing layout, a true sense of community has been established within this building. The jury was unanimous in the decision to make St. Vincents O'Brien Centre this year’s 2012 WAN AWARDS Healthcare sector winner, the appeal to the jurors lay in the ‘evocative interiors’ and the ‘warmth of colour and texture to the interior spaces’. A small project was picked this year as the true test in the healthcare sector is not only based on efficiency but on the personal experience of the patient, so the winning design had to design its rooms to be ‘not only based on the patient but the patient’s family’.

It is also with great pleasure that we announce SOM’s Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, as this year’s winner of the 2012 WAN AWARD Healthcare unbuilt category. The building was selected as the winner as it offered considered complexity as a medical model, showed sophistication in its design and made very strong connections to its context; some of the elements the judges felt weren’t as strongly displayed in any other project on the long list.

The initial responses to the scheme were immediately positive with Christopher Shaw, Director at MAAP, started by declaring his interest at the scheme and Sinclair Webster, senior healthcare architect at HKS, backed this opinion by stating: “It’s actually quite interesting in the context of Abu Dhabi, which is a gridded city of constrained heights and strict town planning policies.” The contextual relationship of this building is what ultimately led the jury to award this project the winning title. Guy Barlow later said that: “This project has got context, there’s an understanding of context and it begins to create interesting spaces between it.” Christopher Shaw continued: “This scheme is unusual in that it’s a very big, sophisticated and complex hospital that allows the city to penetrate into it.”

This connection to the city was not seen in any other project on the longlist but it was not the only reason that the project won. The jury felt that the concept was, as Sinclair Webster noted, ‘a very good piece of urban design’, and it stood out amongst all the other Middle Eastern projects that bore no relation to place. Christopher Shaw expressed one final opinion that epitomises how this project affected the judges and finalising the decision to award it the winner. “I think this scheme does many things that are very good; I would like to see it built and for it to influence some fairly mediocre hospital designs currently going on in the Middle East.” 

The unbuilt jury also wished to award a commendation to shortlisted project Livsrum by EFFEKT for it's integration of a human scale.

Congratulations to both deserving winners!

Jack Idle and Matthew Goodwill

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