The client for the project was the James Wigg GP practice, led by Dr Roy Macgregor. They had tried to develop their site through the private finance initiative (PFI) and third party development and refurbishment. None of these routes were successful, so they applied to the Department of Health to run a design competition.
The RIBA competitions office ran the competition process, and a detailed brief for an integrated care centre was prepared with the input of a health architect. A total of 76 teams entered the competition, and four were invited to develop design submissions over eight weeks. A consultation exercise with local residents, staff and patients preceded a final judging session.
The project was developed through the Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) process. This means it was built and is managed by a public-private partnership. At the beginning of a LIFT project, private contractors bid to become partners with the public sector to deliver and manage new ‘one-stop’ health centres.
Here, unusually, bidding consortia were asked to use Allford Hall Monaghan Morris as the architect-led team. Camden Council made the architect’s role a condition of planning permission because they wanted to see the standard of design maintained in the detailed execution of the building.
Arts Council funding enabled a programme of art throughout the building, leading to the integration of hanging rails in all public areas. The programme has developed with the building and included exhibitions of work from local artists and schoolchildren, art workshops and the commissioning of work for the garden.
New working practices
The client team wanted to maximise the opportunity to engender new working practices and relationships. Dr Macgregor wanted users to be able to ‘feel that they could see what was going on, so visual links were important’.
- The reception is visually linked to the different activities in the building, so things can be easily pointed out.
- Circulation and waiting areas visually link the different spaces, so staff can communicate by talking from bridges and leaning through hatches between consulting floors.
- Everyone shares the same staff room and outside terrace with table tennis table.
- Breakout areas and tea points are located between departments to enable different staff groups to meet.
- Meeting rooms are pooled and booked as needed. When rooms are not used to capacity they can be used for external meetings and conferences.
Dr McGregor pointed out that the lead client had an important role to play in engaging all partners. He would in retrospect have held more workshops at the beginning in order to develop cross-disciplinary working.