LocationReading, Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
Text description provided by the architects. Circle Reading hospital is the second project delivered by Circle Health, a private healthcare provider. The 10,100m² facility provides elective surgery through GP referral both on a private basis and as part of the expansion of patient choice within the NHS. Patient experience is very important to Circle and a lot of attention has been paid to the architecture, interior design and the overall patient experience. They aim to provide the experience of a hotel rather than a hospital.
The hospital is located in Reading, on a site that was designated for a four storey hospital development in the area masterplan. It sits on the transition between new residential development blocks, an existing commercial area and the busy A33 into Reading. The hospital is read in two distinct parts. To the east side, a two storey brick element contains the services areas and operating theatres, relating in size, material and scale to the surrounding housing. Set back from the edge of the site, it is screened from the housing opposite by a wild flower meadow and trees.
The more striking part of the building is to the west of the site and relates in scale to the commercial development to the south and to the west. The large scale and distinctive glass cladding is visible from the A33 and signals the presence of the hospital from afar. Two storeys of glass curtain walling form the podium above which the inpatient bedroom block floats. Expressed as a simple box, it is clad in a glass “basket-weave” cladding. The faceted glass surface creates a high level of animation, one of contrasts between light and dark with an interplay of reflections of the sky and the immediate environment.
All bedrooms face inwards to an internal courtyard which features an intensive green roof, providing a peaceful and green outlook, aiding patient recovery. The interior is clad in western red cedar shingles, which provide a softer, more intimate scale to the interior of the box. From this courtyard, light floods into the top lit atrium below through clerestory windows and rooflights.
The double height atrium acts like the main street of the hospital, creating a hub around which consultation and treatment rooms, patient recovery, imaging department, admin areas and restaurant are located. A grand staircase and lift rises from the atrium to serve the upper levels, views are afforded back into the atrium wherever possible to help orientate the visitor. The main entrance to the building is through the south elevation into the atrium.
BWL are a multi-disciplinary practice and were appointed to create a building system that can be adapted to different sites. Circle Reading was to be the demonstration building for this new approach. Through our fully integrated service (comprising architectural design, structural, mechanical, electrical and public health engineering) we were able to approach the design in a new way. Almost 50% of the cost of a new hospital is spent on services. We knew by making the services distribution as rational as possible it would be possible to dramatically reduce the volume of the building and therefore reduce build costs.
The building system also makes extensive use of design for manufacture to reduce embodied energy and cost. Where ever possible we have employed prefabricated elements such as the structural system, shower rooms, doors sets and fitted furniture assemblies.
Bryden Wood used the project to develop a set of processes, components and standard construction techniques that is being adopted across the rollout of Circle’s hospitals. Common elements will be continually refined to improve the efficiency of design and construction and the quality of the end product, while also increasing cost and programme certainty.