LocationEdinburgh, United Kingdom
Architect / Interior Design:3DReid
Structural EngineerGoodson Associates
Quantity Surveyor/Project ManagerArcadis
Text description provided by the architects. 3DReid have completed a new Health & Wellbeing Centre for the Thistle Foundation - a charitable organization who offer support to those with disabilities, enabling them to live independent lives, in their own homes.
The new facility is located at the heart of the original Thistle Foundation development, now a designated Conservation Area. A philanthropic gesture, put in place at the end of the Second World War, the original scheme comprised 103 houses, in a model village-esque arrangement, with the Arts & Crafts-style Robin Chapel, at its heart (both now Listed developments). Pioneering at the time, the scheme was one of the first to be designed to cater for those with disabilities - specifically, injured returning service men.
Replacing a former facility that was no longer fit for purpose and uneconomical to reshape to suit current needs, the footprint of the building was rotated through 90 degrees, forming a more permeable public realm to the front of the building and improving the setting of the Chapel, whilst creating a secured garden space to the rear.
Anchoring a series of complementary facilities, including a gym, consultation and training rooms and the Charity’s office accommodation, around a double-height ‘Hub’ space, the project has been shaped to best cater for those who come to visit.
Through extensive use of timber cladding, both inside and out, the project offers a warm and inviting environment for those who visit, many of whom suffer from anxiety-related conditions. Crafting a non-institutional and friendly presence was instrumental in ensuring that the built environment did not compound these and that the design of the Centre remained completely aligned to the core ethos of the Charity.
Pressure treated with a blend of preservation and pigmentation, the timber cladding will retain its current hue, throughout its lifespan, maintaining consistency at the interfaces between the internal and external use of the material, whilst offering a palette that tonally aligns to the building’s surroundings. Extended fins to the East and West facades help reduce solar gain and glare, to the first floor office spaces, whilst the cladding also integrates the ‘Thistle’ logo.
Externally, the palette of materials is completed via use of brickwork and pre-cast concrete – selected to complement the stonework of the Chapel and rendered facades of the surrounding houses, respectively. Sited in an area in which some degree of anti-social behaviour has been a historic problem, the application of these, at ground floor level, offers a sense of robustness, without sacrificing the welcoming feeling of the development.
Internally, the Hub provides the main focus of the building. Furniture has been carefully selected to offer a range of seating types and environments, that provide visitors with a choice as to the most comfortable area in which to meet others, or relax. Hinged partitions to the breakout spaces, fronting the Hub, allow these rooms to be open, or closed, to the wider space, offering flexibility in their use.
With the public-access facilities all situated at ground level, the office accommodation occupies the upper floor of the building, offering staff a degree of privacy, whilst still maintaining a connected feel, through the introduction of full height screens overlooking the central double-height space.
Punctuating the open-plan office space, honeycombed acrylic panels have been utilized to form ‘quiet pods’ – spaces in which more sensitive discussions and phone calls can take place - introducing concentrated blocks of colour, aligned to the core branding of the organization.