Healing close to nature
Located in Belgium’s largest province but also its least populous one, the new hospital faces the village of Houdemont alongside the E411 motorway on the south-facing side of the Rulles, the river flowing beneath it. All the patient rooms enjoy a view over the valley, away from the motorway. The surrounding countryside is fully integrated into the healing process with an orchard, flower prairies, rainwater harvesting ponds and a fitness trail. The natural world also finds a place on the building patios so that patients, visitors and staff are able to see the sky and enjoy natural light.
Visually, the hospital presents a predominantly horizontal profile which has been terraced into the landscape. The design takes advantage of the natural slope of the land to include two separate access levels for the general public and support services. The exterior façades are made from a unique material, metal, with a shining and clear finishing, implemented in a variety of textures and rhythms across the buildings. From afar, the entire development blends perfectly into the landscape and appears highly coherent before revealing specific details as the viewer approaches.
An agile and environmentally friendly model
The hospital is divided into four centres of activity, or hubs, connected by a central gallery. Diagnostic and intervention services make up the technical heart of the hospital. They are directly connected to the outpatient centre and day hospitals, which are constantly growing in activity, and also to the hospitalisation and consultation wings. A fourth, independent building hosts support and logistical services. Each building has been designed in accordance with the specificities of the activities it hosts and enjoys functional and technical autonomy. The hospital is thus an open structure which can evolve and continue to grow. In future, each of the hubs can be extended independently.
From an ecological perspective, everything has been put in place to minimise the environmental footprint of the project without neglecting quality of life at the hospital. Solar panels have been used alongside geothermal energy and co-generation to achieve a level of energy autonomy close to the “passive standard” (aiming for nZEB). Currently used for intensive farming, the level of biodiversity on site is relatively low. The project aims to recreate natural zones around the building to regenerate biodiversity, using hay prairies and humid zones for wild fauna, and support local distribution channels, with orchards and vegetable gardens for local consumption. The omnipresence of natural light, careful management of water, use of natural materials and soft mobility links with neighbouring villages also contribute to making the hospital a development which is inclusive and respectful of the environment.
“From an ecological perspective, everything has been put in place to minimise the environmental footprint of the project without neglecting quality of life at the hospital.”
A new, “Covid-proof” hospital which is able to adapt to crises
In the face of Covid-19, we have been able to show that the concepts embodied by the new hospital are particularly well-suited to managing a health crisis. The autonomy of buildings, increased number of lifts, separate flows for patients and staff, organisation of services into compartmentalised channels and automation of logistics are so many factors which minimise risk and make the containment of infectious pathogens easier. In the event of a seasonal peak, the hospital’s total capacity can be increased from 660 to 720 beds; without adding rooms, we have given the hospital the option of increasing the number of beds on demand.
Quality of life for patients and care staff at the hospital was central to our thinking, as this is crucial for reducing stress and being able to cope during intense periods. The spaces have been designed through a collaborative process, bringing together representatives from all services in work groups. The result is a “look and feel” concept focused on comfort and highly readable spaces. The simplicity of the public road which connects all the parts of the building and the regular contact with gardens make it easy for the public to wander through the hospital. Relaxed, comfortable lounges and waiting rooms are distributed throughout the care units and outpatient services, while a large resting and relaxation space located at the centre of the hospital, the “staff quarters”, is dedicated to the people working in the facilities.
Draft design presentation
Video - user experience approach
Take a virtual stroll through the hospital.
Draft design proposal
Video - programme and functional design
Organisation of departments and functional connections.
Gallery of images
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