Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, Johannesburg

An international team from the UK and South Africa worked together to create this children’s hospital in a natural healing environment


Project Info
Client:
Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund
Architect Sheppard Robson
Architect: John Cooper Architecture
Architect and Urban designer: GAPP Architects & Urban Designers
Site architect: Ruben Reddy Architects
Size: 29,900 sq m
Duration: 6.5 years


Words by Emily Martin
Images by Tristan McLaren

An international design team made up of UK-based architecture practices Sheppard Robson and John Cooper Architecture (JCA), and South African architecture practices GAPP Architects & Urban Designers and Ruben Reddy Architects, has delivered the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, in Johannesburg.

With Sheppard Robson and JCA responsible for the design concept of the hospital, GAPP was responsible for the development of the facade and public spaces within the hospital, while Ruben Reddy Architects was the local lead and site architects, with a remit that included the design development of the clinical and operational facilities of the building and overall coordination.

A welcoming and safe environment has been created for the child patients and their parentsA welcoming and safe environment has been created for the child patients and their parents

‘A key element of the brief was to construct a hospital that provides high-quality child healthcare in a natural healing environment.

This focus on connecting to nature would go on to shape the design of the project and be a starting point to creating a welcoming, safe environment for both children and parents,’ says Barry Kendell, associate, Sheppard Robson.

A welcoming and safe environment has been created for the child patients and their parentsA welcoming and safe environment has been created for the child patients and their parents

The result is a state-of-the-art paediatric tertiary facility located on the University of the Witwatersrand’s education campus, a central position allowing it to service the needs of the region’s population.

The design breaks away from housing all departments in a single ‘box’ building, which often leads to deep floor plates resulting in patients and staff have little contact with the outside world. After extensive consultation it was clear that long, institutional and windowless corridors should be avoided in favour of a plan that connected to its natural surroundings.

A welcoming and safe environment has been created for the child patients and their parentsA welcoming and safe environment has been created for the child patients and their parents

‘Sheppard Robson and JCA’s concept envisaged the creation of six wings, each with its own specialism. These were connected by a “street” that ran through the centre of the project,’ explains Kendell. ‘This street was vital for connectivity, with three main junctions that enable efficient flow of people. The separation of floors avoided cross-overs and assisted wayfinding.’

Moving away from the feeling of being an institution, each building wing features a friendly design language to give it a distinct identity. This is most noticeable by the colour of the solar shading walls – formed from horizontal rails – that changes for each department. Shallow floor plates allow for natural light to pour into the building, and by placing many treatment spaces next to windows patients and staff can enjoy the views out over the surrounding landscape and internal courtyards created in between the hospital wings.

Treatment rooms use bold decorative graphics that will be engaging for the young patientsTreatment rooms use bold decorative graphics that will be engaging for the young patients

Additionally, there are five internal therapeutic courtyards, as well as three outside therapy gardens, which have been designed for occupational therapy and children’s play.

These spaces feature a predominantly indigenous landscape, using plant species found in the nearby Melville Koppies Nature Reserve. The external spaces were created with healing in mind, and the design encourages patients to use the outdoor spaces as part of their recovery.

Treatment rooms use bold decorative graphics that will be engaging for the young patientsTreatment rooms use bold decorative graphics that will be engaging for the young patients

Working closely with Sheppard Robson’s interior design group, ID:SR, it helped create a clear and coherent wayfinding solution – in collaboration with Black Bird Design – as well as designing the internal finishes for shared spaces, including the corridor, reception and family rooms.

‘We had to create a legible environment that was culturally relevant, without being clichéd,’ comments Kendell. The way finding incorporates a number of artworks completed by children at project workshops and, rather than being text-based, much of the wayfinding uses colour and symbols to ease navigation for children and the different nationalities that will use the hospital.

The building’s expression of colour, inside and out, is an important characteristic of the design, says Sheppard Robson’s Barry KendellThe building’s expression of colour, inside and out, is an important characteristic of the design, says Sheppard Robson’s Barry Kendell

‘The building’s expression of colour, inside and out, is an important characteristic of the design,’ says Kendell. ‘It not only references the vibrancy of Southern African culture and heritage, drawing references from fabrics and art, but also plays a major role in creating clear and legible navigation in and around the building.

The building’s expression of colour, inside and out, is an important characteristic of the design, says Sheppard Robson’s Barry KendellThe building’s expression of colour, inside and out, is an important characteristic of the design, says Sheppard Robson’s Barry Kendell

‘With its rich diversity in language, culture and social economic situations, designing a hospital in South Africa that was welcoming and clear to all was a challenge.’

Key Suppliers

Lighting
Giant Lighting
Genstar Lighting
Regent Lighting

Paint
Tri-Star painting and renovations





Working on something exciting? Submit your project to Design Curial.

Submit project to DesignCurial