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Monday, 08 November 2021

“This project matters because it will support people at times of their greatest need”

Posted in Blog

“This project matters because it will support people at times of their greatest need”

Teva Hesse is an architect who has been leading on the design of the Trust’s two new mental health facilities at Springfield Hospital. The facilities will sit at the heart of a new ‘Springfield Village’, which will also see the development of a new 32-acre park as well as the development of hundreds of new homes.

Here, Teva tells us more about the design of the new facilities, including what he’s enjoyed most about the project.

Where did you take your inspiration for the design?

We started from the premise that the design of the hospitals should be as therapeutic and non-institutional as possible. But in the context of a large mental health institution treating a great variety of mental illness, what does this actually mean?

Our design solutions evolved through our engagement in over 550 meetings, workshops, presentations and design review sessions with service-users, carers, and clinicians. These engagement sessions dated back to 2012. Over time we realised that the feedback we received pointed in the same direction; everyone valued the architectural qualities of ample daylight & fresh air, access to outdoor gardens, internal acoustics that dampens loud noises, and a feeling of openness with good internal sightlines. To accommodate the wide variety of spaces required by the Trust meant organising spaces for communal activities (dining, therapy, prayer/meditation, exercise, training, tribunals, etc.) as well as private spaces (bedrooms, consulting rooms, family visiting rooms, etc) within a tight building footprint and building budget. 

Another key outcome of this engagement was to envision a hospital which reduces the stigma of mental illness by creating buildings that are at the centre of a new residential community, instead of being hidden behind walls and gates. We have tried to make the new hospitals as welcoming and inviting as possible, both for the mental health community as well as for the new residents of Springfield Village.

What’s your favourite part of the design?

We have spent a great amount of time designing planted gardens at the centre of the hospital communal spaces and in the middle of each ward. Providing gardens in multi-storey buildings is a design and technical challenge, but it is central to our idea of bringing nature into the building wherever possible and making the Springfield hospitals greener and brighter.

As occupants move through the new hospitals, they will have views into many gardens and planted courtyards. At the main entrance of the new Trinity building a tree will grow within the covered courtyard where the reception, café and shop are located!

Tell us one thing about the design that you think is really interesting, but people might not necessarily know about it?

Springfield University Hospital is the only former Victorian mental health asylum in Greater London which still provides mental health services from its original site. The others have been torn down for development or have been converted to housing with no acknowledgement of their past. We researched the history of Springfield University Hospital at the Metropolitan Archives and found a very rich history, most notably that it was one of the first mental health institutions to do away with patient restraints.

You’ve spoken before about designing environments that are more therapeutic and beneficial for patients, tells us more about this.

I have touched on this above and it boils down to this: as a designer, you need to continually ask yourself what kind of environment would you want if you were staying on a ward or visiting for a consultation? Within the constraints of current NHS budgets our team has sought to provide the buildings that are pleasant to be in, that fit into their surroundings, and that have a lasting architectural quality without being overly expressive or stylised.

What have you enjoyed most about working on this project?

I have meet so many people whose lives have been touched by mental illness in a variety of ways. Many have shared experiences which are difficult to come to terms with. It reinforces my belief that this project matters because it will support people at times of their greatest need. There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling that your work is meaningful and can make a difference.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the design or redevelopment more broadly?

This development is remarkable in that the planning started in 2004. A great number of people contributed to making it happen today; many have moved on, but we all owe a debt of gratitude to them.  

The Springfield Village redevelopment is unique in using NHS assets to replace and modernise outdated mental health facilities and to create a new residential community with mental health unashamedly at its centre. Along the way at-risk heritage buildings are being restored to new uses. We are proud of the amount of green space within Springfield Village which is being transformed into a public park.  Many other community benefits will be delivered including retail shops, improved transport links and low-carbon district energy/heating infrastructure.

From the outset of this project there were easier ways to modernise the Springfield University Hospital estate, such as an outright sale and relocating the new hospitals to another site, but our intention is that the creation of the new Springfield Village will set a new benchmark for sustainable,  mental health community development and will be a model for other Trusts to follow.