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Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital
South Africa
Drawings, plans, elevations
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“There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela, May 1995 The brief from the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust was to provide a world-class paediatric facility. The Hospital Trust called for a unique design that would create an environment that was welcoming, playful and family orientated, providing quality child healthcare in a natural healing environment. Departing from the single-block massing, windowless corridors and deep floor-plates typical of many hospital designs, the concept proposed the creation of six wings connected to a central corridor running through the core of the building. The building is designed around a series of courtyard and garden spaces, allowing natural light and ventilation to flood into the building, presenting views over the internal courtyard gardens between hospitals wings and over the surrounding city. The design is predominantly horizontal in nature. Planning relationships were arranged with accessibility and privacy in mind. The pronounced end wings of the building are a strong identifying architectural element of the building. Hospitals are by nature internalised building types and the large glazed end wings provide a means of engaging with the city, with coloured glazing used to add a playful expression to these facades. The articulated concrete forms and contrasting earthy tones of the brickwork facades pick up the hues of the red clay soil, as well as referencing the existing WITS campus buildings. A series of workshops involving children, parents and staff from surrounding hospitals were held during planning stages to inform the design of the internal environment. Colour, décor and lighting serve to humanise spaces, creating interactive and engaging environments that aim to ensure the building is family orientated and child-centric in appearance. The wayfinding graphics and bespoke furniture incorporate a number of the artworks completed by children present at the workshops. Distinct colours within the different zones of the building differentiate the function and speciality of each wing and these colours are picked up externally on the horizontal solar shading screens of the respective wings. A paediatric hospital is a complex and highly emotive building type. In designing the public and private spaces within the building, the architects were mindful of the balance between the need for patients to feel welcome, secure and hopeful, while not compromising the clinical functionality of the building. In this, NMCH is not only a pioneering children’s hospital within Johannesburg, but expands the role and expectations of what should be expected from a paediatric facility. Going above the functional requirements, the building aspires to be an inclusive place of healing, rooted in its connection to nature and the surrounding city – a true legacy to Mandela’s endearing commitment to the lives, and futures, of all children
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