Flexibility Is The Key To St Oswald’s Family Room & Garden

Flexibility Is The Key To St Oswald’s Family Room & Garden

Newcastle-based JDDK Architects have proved how a little can go a long way at St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth, where their new Family Room & Garden has proved invaluable since opening in lockdown last year and being constantly used ever since.

With flexibility being the key to the design, the practice’s 15th project at St Oswalds, since the original design by Jane Darbyshire in 1987, for the award-winning hospice, has enabled families to visit loved ones throughout the pandemic in an environment that blurs the threshold between interior and exterior space and puts families and patients at ease.

JDDK Associate Director and Project Architect, Stuart Franklin, explains, “The genius of Jane Darbyshire’s original design was that the hospice could grow incrementally through the years, organically adding to the asymmetric plan and series of courtyards, as funding allowed. This Family Garden Room project is just the latest phase of an ongoing programme, which has allowed the hospice to not only grow, but also to adapt to changing needs and technology within healthcare. The building has been designed to be as flexible as possible to accommodate multiple functions; the main one allowing families to visit patients in a pleasant environment and although we obviously had no knowledge of the impending pandemic when we designed the building in 2019, it’s been in constant use as a Covid-safe environment throughout.”

The four month, £265,307 contract, completed by Applebridge Construction with GlenKemp as landscape architects, has doubled the size of the previous ‘Quiet Room’ and widened the corridors leading to it, allowing patient bed access. The new building’s roof provides a 3meter overhang along two sides, creating a covered veranda.  This is complemented by two sliding-folding patio doors which fold back providing uninterrupted views and access to the garden under the shelter of the roof canopy above.

The relandscaping of the garden also plays a key part in the overall design. The key aim was to restore the garden to provide an accessible ‘break-out’ space for patients, families and staff, offering opportunities to walk around the pond, sit and observe the wildlife or simply meet-up and chat with loved ones.  As well as being the central focus with its marginal planting, the refurbished pond continues to function as a SuDS attenuator, collecting rain water from the surrounding roof.  The garden refurbishment was designed to have minimal adverse impact on the existing TPO tree roots to the Western perimeter.  Shrubs and herbaceous species and wild flower lawns were provided to promote both local biodiversity and seasonal interest.

The scale of the spaces were designed to compliment the scale of the surrounding buildings and the original garden.  More intimate seating areas with smaller scale art works/lighting features are provided, with the garden being sub-divided into subtle character areas to offer various levels of seclusions, privacy and opportunities for social interaction, highlighted by differing ground finishes.  Mown paths are also formed within the wildflower lawn.

Stuart Franklin continued, “Bed-bound patients can access garden and family room and have the choice of meeting within a fully contained internal space, or sheltered external veranda environment, allowing maximum use of the room whatever the weather, throughout the year. During the various lockdowns, visitors were able to enter the garden, without having to go through the main hospice, to see and talk to their relatives in a Covid-safe environment. Just by adding a relatively small incremental extension, the hospice now has multiple options for visiting families.”

Marisa Woodward, St Oswald’s Social Worker added, “The new room has been an absolute godsend to both patients and visitors during the Pandemic, allowing us to permit Covid-safe family visits when most other care and residential facilities were unable to so, and the beneficial effect on everyone has been wonderful. The entry through the wonderful landscaped gardens rather than the hospice itself puts visitors at ease and we have had incredible feedback on the project.”

Jane Hamblin, Facilities Manager at St Oswald’s, added, “The transformation has been amazing. In truth, the previous quiet room was a little underused and we now have a fantastic and very much appreciated addition to our facilities for what was a relatively modest budget. Stuart and the whole team were able to deliver this under the very difficult circumstances as Covid swept the country and the response from patients, families and staff has been overwhelmingly positive – the new room is light and airy with a well thought out design and beautiful finishing.”

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