Boutique hotel or high-end hospital?

Monday 22 Apr 2013

Brian Eno brings Montefiore Hospital to life

“Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the objects presented to patients have a powerful effect and are actual means of recovery.” These are the words of Florence Nightingale in 1859; words that have shaped the way we approach healthcare design to this day. The introduction of artwork into a healthcare environment has been proven to have a significant positive effect on patients in hospital facilities across the globe; something that we often see in the WAN Effectiveness Awards.

If ever there was a UK city willing to embrace artwork into its institutional clutches it’s Brighton, a coastal community on the southeast of England and one of the creative epicentres of the country. It is here that healthcare architecture specialists IBI Nightingale are based and it is on the Brighton and Hove border that they have completed their latest clinical project: Montefiore Hospital.

IBI Nightingale was brought onto the scheme by Spire Healthcare after an engineer visited the chosen site - a former office building - and requested architectural backup. Mike Rawlinson, Estates & Building Projects Manager at Spire Healthcare, expands: “In 2010 we were looking for a site in a prime location in the Brighton and Hove area. We found it in the form of 2 Montefiore Road; an iconic building in a prime location but, a former Victorian storehouse.

“The impossible challenge was to convert it into a modern, private hospital facility. This involved not only the usual need for interpreting our operational requirements into a design solution, but also making the design work for a Victorian building. IBI Nightingale rose to that challenge maintaining the character and features of the original building and at the same time creating a state-of-the-art hospital with boutique hotel comfort.”

On Thursday last week, local journalists gathered in the lobby of the Montefiore Hospital - which as Rawlinson suggests, feels more like a boutique hotel than a medical facility - to hear musician and artist Brian Eno talk about his collaboration with Spire Healthcare and IBI Nightingale which saw two light and sound installations integrated into the building design.

The first of Eno’s artworks is a reworking of his popular 77 Million Paintings piece where between 300 and 400 individual photographs and hand-drawn or computer generated images are processed by a unique software system which selects up to five artworks at random and layers them over one another, slowly fading in and out. These amalgamated images are then framed in an eight-screen grid in the lobby area of the Montefiore Hospital. A film of Eno’s past rendition of 77 Million Paintings can be seen below.

At first glance one wouldn’t notice that the images on the lobby wall are shifting, such is the smooth motion through which they rotate. There is also the fact that it would take over 100 years for the same set of images to meet again in the same format within the picture grid. This visual medley is supported by a soft musical score composed by Eno to relax patients and help them detach from a sometimes unpleasant experience of hospital treatment. 

Branching off from the chemotherapy room downstairs one finds a larger relaxation piece, the ‘Quiet Room for Montefiore’, also conceptualised by Eno. Working in partnership with IBI Nightingale, the artist has created a private space for patients - many of whom are dealing with cancer - and hospital staff who need to take time to relax and process their day. The warming light show and gentle music have been designed to relax the mind and tests have shown that users’ heart rates have actually slowed when in the room, which can be seen as evidence that it is serving its calming purpose.

The complete transformation of the building from a former furniture depository building for a local department store (Hanningtons) and later an office for insurance company Legal & General into a state-of-the-art hospital is outstanding. IBI Nightingale’s ambitious remodelling and extension sees the Edwardian giant buffed back to its former glory in a £34m adaptive reuse project.

Challenges presented by staggered floor plates, steep internal ramps, fixed service cores and 1970s décor were overcome and the result is ‘an inspiring hospital with a unique identity’ [Richard Ager, IBI Nightingale]. The Montefiore now treats a mix of private and NHS-funded patients and is a model of intelligent design, leading the way for healthcare architecture across the UK.  

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