Guy’s Hospital: Epiphytic Architecture, The Hub and making the hospital a better place to be

There have been several posts now on my exploration and findings within Guy’s Hospital and the surrounding area. The theories, programs and ideas that I created on the basis of that initial research has been discussed somewhat, but in terms of final drawings and solutions to the problems I identified the project has been lacking. In this post I want to give a glimpse into some of the work and ideas I put forward to make the hospital a better place.

Epiphytic architecture

The idea of creating and almost growing self contained programs of space that hang off the pre-existing structure of Guy’s Hospital was a strong and favourite one, right from the start. I remember describing them to my tutor during a crit as parasitic, in the way they cling to the structure and rely on it for support. I was soon shot down for this phrase, and rightly so. A parasite is something that takes from a larger organism but doesn’t give anything back – it works at the detriment of the host creature. The word that I was suggested to use was ‘epiphyte’, a term typically used to describe a plant that grows harmlessly on another plant, and thus I began to use the term ‘epiphytic architecture’ when describing these additional spaces. I wanted them, if anything, to grow and exist to the benefit, not detriment, of the hospital.

model 3

Working models demonstrating the existing structure of the tower, encouraging new and additional spaces to grow upon it. Spaces such as hostels (for family members of patients to stay close to their loved ones), a diverse, multi floor waiting room (the smaller waiting rooms are merged into one flowing space that spans multiple floors and comes out of the main tower to give freedom and reduce anxiety while waiting) and walkways which come out of and back into the hospital, providing fresh air, an escape of the oppressive walls of the hospital as well as fantastic views of London.

The models were very conceptual, and gave me a flexibility to constantly change them, whether that be in shape, material, position, on the tower. I kept asking questions, and in this way the models helped me a lot. For example, I used ripped up pieces of masking tape to simulate hanging vines and green walls. Thin pieces of MDF held in place by copper rods, to represent moveable facades. Flexible walkways of card that wrap around the main structure of the tower, which itself I replicated using a tall wooden plinth.

model 2 pics sheet

The Hub; a place to wait in comfort and peace. Forget you are in a hospital.

hub development 2

Through my site visits and studying of existing plans and sections from the architects behind the recent recladding project Penoyre & Prasad, I noticed that the 18th and 19th floor were different – they had a kind of double space between each floor, very high ceilings, and this was due to the lift access points. I wanted to take advantage of this expanded space above the heads of patients. It was to become The Hub, an expansive open space halfway up Guy’s Tower, which offered spectacular views of the surrounding area, jutting in and out of the existing parameters of the building, with plenty of freedom yet also privacy, and green walls hanging down to give a feeling of being in a floating garden.

waiting room conceptual2
model pics 1.1 sheet

Final Section

The final section, when printed, was over two metres tall. Scaled 1:50, it was a huge task. Parts were left unfinished in order to show the spread of changes across the existing hospital. It was a mixed media piece; most of the section was done in Vectorworks, a CAD software. Some of the instalments were drawn by hand and copied or scanned into place, and it was finished off with atmosphere and occupation. In hindsight it perhaps would have been beneficial to show larger sections of each program. This would have given more detail but lost a sense of wholeness – being a long, all-in-one section keeps the scale of this project at the forefront. The project was met with mixed reviews at the end of the year. The theory and ambition was praised but ultimately there was not enough conviction and finesse in the final drawings and representations.

long section

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