Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Healthcare / Facilities design

European Healthcare Design 2016

Inspiring hope through design

By Charles Stokes 04 Aug 2016 0

The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC), Northern Ireland was the only children’s hospital in the UK without MRI scanning facilities, with young patients having to use inappropriate adult facilities at the neighbouring Royal Victoria Hospital. In order to provide a more supportive environment for children’s needs, four local children’s charities raised £2m to purchase scanning equipment, and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust provided space at the RBHSC.


Methodology and results
The site for the new MRI scanner unit was located within the children’s hospital, a complex warren of buildings deemed far from fit for purpose. The location overlooked a rundown service yard with no opportunity for natural light or exterior views.

Holistic healing and family-centred care were central to the design concept. The unusual funding stream allowed the design team to collaborate closely with the charities, which significantly informed the final design and enabled AECOM to challenge traditional assumptions.

Given the small number of staff in the unit, AECOM negotiated standard infection-control zones, resulting in space being less clinical than might have been the case had standard zoning requirements been enforced.

Art was the medium to promote wellness. The theme had to offset the run-down location and lack of contact with the natural environment. A seaside theme was chosen to provide a familiar and relaxing environment. Nature-themed super graphics are integrated into the architecture and a large aquarium was installed.

Young children are stimulated by brightly coloured fish graphics, creating clear and fun wayfinding. Older children tend to respond better to neutral surroundings provided through pale rubber flooring, off-white walls and oak timber panelling in circulation areas. Three raised clerestory roof lanterns aligned along the main circulation route allow space to flood with natural light, as well as affording skyward views. Large pebble-shaped pendant lights hanging from the lanterns and lagoon-blue carpets reinforce the seaside theme.

The project team went beyond normal specifications to create an oasis of calm. The project, shaped through meaningful engagement, provides a professional paediatric environment and a space infused with natural light, designed to engage, entertain, distract and alleviate distress.

Organisations involved