Model of new hospital design now shown in local press
It’s important what they look like. It matters how they feel. Because hospitals are for humans. To work in, to be born in, to visit, to get fixed in, to recover in, to die in. So we get emotional about them.
You probably know how it is. Parking in the multi-storey, across the road, through the smokers outside the door under the No Smoking sign, past the Reception no one uses, along the corridors, past the Staff of the Year pictures, up the stairs, along to the clinic or maybe the ward this time, hours of waiting, then suddenly into the ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘What’s the diagnosis?’ – those moments the whole room goes real. Then back out along the corridors, past the smokers, leaving the loved one behind, worrying. And that’s just being the carer, being the visitor. We get emotional. About the place, how it is and how it feels, as well as what happens there.
I was reminded of all this. Not just what hospitals do, but the importance of how they are, by two things this week. Photographs of an old hospital and architectural images of a new one.
First the old one, the David Lewis Northern Hospital in Leeds Street, Liverpool. A philanthropist funded replacement for an earlier, Victorian, Northern.
These were sent to me by blog reader Stan Cotter who took them while the hospital was being demolished around 1980. Taken from the top floor of the Telephone Exchange where Stan was working.
This was one of the mixed variety of ageing hospitals gathered up into the National Health Service when it was founded, and you can read more about it on the lovely ‘Streets of Liverpool’ blog, where you’ll also see a very evocative 1963 photograph of a hospital with hardly any cars parked outside it. What you’ll also see there is a deal of emotion about the place:
“My mother spoke of it fondly…Met my future husband here…happy memories…I remember the circular wards…such happy days…love to hear from the Northern Girls…Sister O’Leary was a great teacher.”
The Northern closed in 1978 when Liverpool NHS finally replaced the smallish local hospitals it happened to inherit, with a big one it designed for itself.
This is the place we’ve all endured rather than celebrated these last 30 odd years. And I doubt that many will mourn the fact that it is soon to be replaced. Which brings me to this week’s second hospital. The new Royal Liverpool.
“Once services transfer into the new Royal, the current Royal will be demolished and the surrounding area will be landscaped.
The planned research facility, called Liverpool BioCampus, will then be built on the site of the old hospital.
The new hospital will cost about £335m, with funds coming from the government and the private sector.
Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust said it would be the largest hospital in the country, providing all single en-suite bedrooms for patients.
There will be 18 theatres and 23 wards, with the emergency department being one of the biggest in the North West.”
In amongst the architectural images of what the new place will look like, there is a fly-through of the new design which won’t link to here yet (but is fine on the Liverpool Echo link above).
But here’s a fly-through from earlier in the design process of some early imaginings.
All of which was looking whizzy, spacious, modern and light filled until I got to this last picture. ‘Looks a bit like the existing Royal’ I said on Twitter. ‘With a glass front glued on top of it’ said a friend. At which point the Royal Liverpool themselves got involved in our discussion, pointing us here in response to my suggestion I’d need to see some more detailed plans to get a real handle on the place.
Well they’re not all that detailed and there are a lot of unlabelled, unexplained spaces on there.
So I remain uninformed and unconvinced on the new design. And I decided to write this blog piece to raise my personal concern that this light touch, P.R. way of ‘announcing’ our major new hospital design isn’t good enough.
I’m not against it, I don’t know enough to be against it. And I accept that all opinions on new buildings are subjective. But here, like in all cities, we are expert users of our hospitals and I believe we deserve to be better informed and better engaged in the design of our new place than this week’s experience would suggest is planned.
Because it’s our NHS which we love and treasure so much, and because the current Royal, which we’ve put up with since 1978, has been one of the ugliest buildings in Liverpool since the moment it was built. And we deserve better this time around.
When David Lewis funded the old Northern no one will have expected to be asked about its design. When the state funded its replacement in the 1970s I have no memory of any of us being asked either, and look what happened.
So until this new hospital’s built it’s not too late to get it as right as possible this time round. So come on Royal Liverpool, let’s hear how you’re going to let your supporters support you?
Now a model of the new hospital has been shown in the local press, it begins to look as if the hospital design is done and the opinions of potential hospital users will not be sought. Or am I wrong?