Evelina Children's Hospital, London 

Evelina Children's Hospital, London 

Client: Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
Architect: Hopkins Architects
Installer: Tyndale Flooring Group
Type of works: almost 14,000m2 of wear-resistant nora rubber floor coverings were installed at the hospital to create a colour concept on the floor that was not typical of a hospital, and was appropriate for children.

The planning specifications for the Evelina Children's Hospital, which was opened in Autumn 2005 in the heart of London, were to build a hospital which does not remind users of a hospital. The children's hospital was not only to offer the best possible medical management, but was to be a place which focuses on the needs of seriously ill children and their parents. Thus, Hopkins Architects integrated the ideas and proposals of young patients and local school children during the entire planning process and created a building of light, warmth and colour with a design and access structure appropriate for children.

A colour concept with figural motives, which can be read on all floors due to various colour designs and kaleidoscope-like inlays, serves the orientation in the new building with seven floors. Thus, almost 14,000m2 of wear-resistant nora rubber floor coverings, which meet the high demands of the hospital, were installed.

The new hospital has a total area of 16,500m2 and stands on 300 concrete poles which are 24m in-ground. The characteristic features of the building are its glass façade and the arched glass roof above a central conservatory four floors high.

A key characteristic for the child-appropriate design of the hospital, in optimum consistency with practical necessity, is the concept for orientation and floor-marking. The co-operation with the children resulted in the decision to make the world of nature in its fresh, bright, and casual environment a major subject. Thus, each floor of the hospital was painted in its own colour, received its own name and a symbol from nature.

Most floors are further divided into sub-units which are named after the animals of the corresponding habitat. The Ocean floor includes the wards whales, octopuses, dolphins, and fish; the Savannah floor, camels and lizards, and the Mountains floor, birds and bears. This non-verbal orientation system is of particular help because the numerous patients and their parents from all over South-East England and even from overseas speak approximately 140 languages and thus a more complex multi-language signposting could be avoided.

The guidance system of colours and motives included a corresponding design of all floor coverings on all floors accessible to the public. For this it was necessary to find a floor covering which both met the design demands with regard to the comprehensive colour spectrum, and the strict hygiene provisions of the hospital. The architects decided to use nora rubber floor coverings.

Ken Hood, the project architect for the Evelina hospital, commented: ‘We tendered environmentally compatible products and thus rubber was a good choice.’

The floor coverings were also installed using environmentally compatible, solvent-free adhesives. Apart from a few functional-related exceptions, nora floor coverings must not be joint-sealed. The dimensional stability and closed surface of the rubber sheet, which needs no coating and can easily be cleaned, delivers hygienic and economic advantages from the installation to the long-term care and maintenance of the floor covering.

The design highlight and the highest technical demand on the 13,800m2 of rubber floor coverings in the Evelina hospital was presented by the inlays, which reproduced the landscapes in the individual wards. According to Ken Hood, the design team of Hopkins Architects co-operated with artist Mary Evans, who designed the kaleidoscope-like inlays. She conducted workshops with children from the existing St Thomas’ Hospital to develop the topics and colours for each floor and the figural symbols from the animal kingdom. As a result, three pairs of fish and dolphins seem to talk with each other on the Ocean floor, while in Savannah three pairs of lizards each form a heart symbol. The floor design thus serves as functional floor-marking and at the same time emphasises the cheerful and warm atmosphere of the children's hospital.

The British floor-layer firm Tyndale Flooring Group was responsible for laying the nora rubber floor coverings and co-operated closely with Freudenberg from the detail planning to the cutting and installation at the construction site. The inlays installed without any joints are as wear-resistant, dimensionally stable, permanently resilient, have excellent anti-slip properties and are as economical to clean as the rubber floor coverings installed in sheets or tiles.

The project architect, Ken Hood, concluded as follows based on the three years of co-operation with regard to the children's hospital: ‘We would certainly use products from Freudenberg again because rubber floor coverings are natural products and have a long service life’. Ken Hood also complimented on the co-operation with Freudenberg and the floor-layer which were always very helpful. ‘The floor covering looks good’, he stated several months after the official inauguration, ‘And it also obviously meets the demands of the hospital users.’

During a site visit at approximately the same time, the representatives of the principal also judged very positively with regard to the floorcovering which would be easy to clean, look like new and would possess remarkable anti-slip properties. It was obviously the floor covering which led the Medical Director, Dr. Francis Flinter, to sum up: ‘This is a building full of fantasy, warmth and humour and one which is equipped at the best for its task.’

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