Blossom Court, the new inpatient building for St Ann’s Hospital, prioritises independent access to outdoor space for patients, to promote their mental and physical wellbeing and reduce pressure on staff. The building comprises three Adult Acute wards and one Eating Disorders ward, with shared accommodation including visiting space, staff rest and a multi-faith room. The building is part of wider development of the site to create a people-focused healthcare campus, masterplanned by Medical Architecture.
A people-focused healthcare campus
Medical Architecture worked closely with Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust to develop plans for a new mental health inpatient building, which would form the initial phase of a cohesive new healthcare campus. The campus masterplan prioritises people, with roads and parking organised around the site perimeter. Buildings are organised along a generous boulevard where activities can safely spill out from individual buildings, creating an activated street scene.
To create a physical connection with the existing neighbouring community, the original perimeter wall was partly demolished; creating a new opening that connects the boulevard with the local network of streets. The new inpatient building is prominently located, promoting the hospital’s mental health services and challenging any stigma that surrounds them.
A therapeutic environment for patients and staff
The new building is designed to address the complex needs of a mental health ward with a simple solution and an integrated approach. The four wards are arranged around two private two-storey courtyards, each with a ward on its ground and first floor. The courtyard arrangement offers private views, abundant daylight and a positive focal point for its patients.
The ward plan forms a simple loop, providing two choices of route within the ward. This gives staff or patients the opportunity to back away from escalating and challenging situations. This arrangement also allows subdivision for separating patient groups and the creation of one-way circulation routes to aid social distancing.
Independent access to outdoor space
Providing easy access to good quality outdoor space is one of the building’s fundamental design principles, a move which has taken on heightened importance during Covid-19. Both storeys are configured to provide direct access to outdoor space without the need for direct staff supervision, something which was severely lacking in the previous inpatient facilities.
This autonomy reduces pressure on staff, removing a potential source of conflict and frustration. The generous ground floor courtyard features a deep overhang in front of its dining and activity rooms for shade and shelter. On the first floor this overhang creates a terrace bordered by glazing. Visual connection to the larger courtyard space beyond enhances the impression of a spacious outdoor retreat.
Promoting all aspects of health and wellbeing
To support physical health, inclusive exercise equipment is provided in the courtyards and gardens that are directly accessible on both levels. As they can be independently accessed, patients are able to be active at a time that suits them. The layout of the courtyard allows an abundance of daylight to enter into the heart of the building, creating the opportunity to connect with the time of day, the seasons and the changing weather.
A new way to see mental healthcare
The facade features a simple palette of high-quality brickwork that will age well, is robust, and integrates with the materials of neighbouring buildings. The large Britplas ‘Safevent’ windows—some of the largest the supplier has ever installed at 2.1m high—address ligature risk and can be opened wide to reveal a fine perforated steel mesh. This allows good ventilation whilst preventing the passing of contraband.
A long-term view of sustainability
The building is designed with passive measures, favouring low energy and low-tech solutions to control the internal environment. These include tall ceilings, window vents at a high level and exposing the building’s thermal mass to reduce overheating in the summer, along with a high level of insulation to the envelope to retain heat in the winter. This is supplemented by air source heat pumps and a roof covered with photovoltaic cells to provide a renewable source of energy. The building is designed to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and is now awaiting certification post construction. Source and photos Courtesy of Medical Architecture.