An expanding children’s hospice proved to be a challenging – but ultimately rewarding – architectural project, writes Melanie Clear
Haven House Children’s Hospice is a charity that offers a home-from-home space for children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and their families. The charity has expanded rapidly; in 2012/13 it supported 149 children in the hospice (including 28 new children through referral) plus a further 93 through its community services.
Clear Architects was brought in to design an annexe to the charity’s locally listed White House building when it became clear that NHS England were providing capital funding. Its design houses two consultation rooms for Great Ormond Street doctors, one music therapy room (later supplied by the Amy Winehouse Foundation) and a flexible/activity space for training or larger activities for the children.
Clear’s concept for the annexe was for it to be strikingly different to the original White House building’s Arts and Crafts style. The proposal was a contemporary interpretation of a garden-styled building, which would connect to the original building by a glazed link. The timber-shingled facade nestled the building into the surrounding tree landscape as well as providing a clear differentiation to the architectural style of Charles Voysey, whose design White House was built to. For the annexe, a Seddum roof was incorporated into all of the flat-roofed elements for two reasons; to provide an ‘organic’ outlook, with reference to the natural building Clear tried to instigate with the timber frame, and to create harmony with the woodland setting.
The project was fraught with challenges from the outset, not least because the concept and design had to be created before it was clear how much funding from the Department of Health (later NHS England) would be awarded for the proposed build. Clear Architects created a ‘bid’ document that incorporated the concept, internal space layout/brief and rationale to the bid request, which was for £699,000, incorporating a quantity surveyor’s breakdown.
Of the £699,000 applied for, Haven House was awarded £464,000 for the annexe build. The funding shortfall meant several ‘value engineering’ exercises took place; Clear literally begged the contractors/suppliers it knew for their assistance to enable the majority of the works to still be undertaken despite the constrained funds.
The main areas that were altered as a result were the reduction in floor area, the removal of the original proposed lift and a decrease in the glazed link by restricting it to the front of the building only. Despite the reduced scope of works, the concept and design were not dramatically affected. Indeed, Clear was able to provide all the additional care resources for the hospice but could not quite stretch to the ground floor community office. So, despite the shortfall, it is felt the project has still been very much delivered.
There were other challenges too. The site designated for the extension is located on land spanning three different councils: Redbridge, Waltham Forest and the City of London. This meant Clear had to negotiate with all three for access, albeit that Waltham Forest were the main council for the building designs. Even with that, Clear worked hard with the conservation team for the correct design. Clear also had to work within the confines of a boundary of trees and an arboretum (a collection of protected trees) on-site, which has been planted by famous people such as Lady Margaret Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill. The annexe building had to be designed so as to avoid the root protection zone, and the crown of one of the annexe’s neighbouring oak trees even dictated the shape of the building; a whole corner was set back to the front of the building to accommodate this and collaborated extensively with a tree officer from Waltham Forest council.
In line with its practice’s end-to-end, inside-outside approach, Clear took this project from concept and drawing board all the way through to project managing the build and, using trusted contractors Masons Construction (London) Ltd, Clear designed the interiors as well, specifying all flooring and lighting. The charity later had an interior design company help them with keywords that signify the charity’s ethos that are displayed on the brilliant white walls to powerful effect.
In the end, with some clever redesigns, Clear managed to retain the concept and build almost 100 per cent of the design; a feat only achieved due to the generosity of everyone involved in the build. In total, an estimated £160,000 was donated based on ‘at cost’ price estimations for a fantastic cause.
The ethos of the charity is that Haven House is a place where children from across North and East London, West Essex and East Hertfordshire are cared for to live as fully as they are able to. The annexe will change the way the hospice operates and the care it is able to provide, which makes all of Clear’s hard work even more rewarding.
- Architects and planning consultant: Clear Architects
- CDM: Sheeley Associates
- Build: Mason Construction (London) Ltd
- Building control: Salus Building Control
- Survey information: Greenhatch
- Structural engineer: JP Chick & Partners
- Air conditioning system: CoolSpace
- Windows, front door and roof lights: Fineline Aluminium
- Green roof and insect hotel: ANS
- Timber shingles: Silva
- Timber Flooring: Lancashire Flooring
- Sanitaryware: Bathworks
- Platform lift: Axess4All
- Bespoke joinery items: DM Sullivan Furnishing Ltd
- Specialist consultation sinks: Venesta
- Funding: NHS England
- IT support, plus furniture and equipment: ING
- Funding of the Amy Winehouse Foundation Music Room: The Amy Winehouse Foundation
- Funding of a consulting room and disabled WC: The Story of Christmas
- Furniture and equipment: Premier Sustain
- A home cinema installation: Together for Cinema