Can architecture have a healing effect? Calm and inspiring surroundings, lots of natural light and easy to navigate – these are some of the key principles of healing architecture. Architects from 3XN and Arkitema Health paid great attention to detail when implementing those principles in the design of the new children’s hospital that is planned to be built on the premises of Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen.
Trying to find one’s way along narrow corridors, losing orientation of time and place, sharp unwelcoming spotlights and unfriendly sounds.
Such descriptions vividly remind the author of this article of time spent in hospital. Surely they are not conducive to improving the well-being of patients, and studies show that surroundings can have an effect on health, both positive and negative. So, when designing the new children’s hospital in Copenhagen, ‘BørneRiget’ (The Kingdom of Children), healing architecture was one of the key principles from which the architects began their work.
‘We have worked on a healing architecture that, apart from the functional aspect, also gives the possibility for play and creativity, making it a hospital that functions in the service of the residents of the hospital; the children,’ says Kim Herforth Nielsen, creative director and founder of 3XN.
BørneRiget is designed in round and organic shapes, making it look and feel friendly and welcoming from the outside. It will have the shape of two hands, and gardens will be planted at the tips of the fingers. Inside, the children will be met with a bright room, fitted out in calming nuances, always with views to the surrounding nature, making orientation easy and bringing nature’s calming effects closer to the interior.
‘We have focused heavily on making sure that the children and families who come to BørneRiget feel safe and welcome. That is achieved through working with private zones and multiple types of public zones, so that you yourself can choose the amount of companionship you want to have with others,’ says Wilhelm Berner-Nielsen, who is partner and representative of Arkitema Health, one of the partnering companies of the project.
As a patient you are likely to spend a lot of time in a bed, which makes it important that you do not feel excluded. Therefore, every bedroom will have a view over the city, making the children feel part of society during their stay. And at the end of each ‘finger’ there will be winter gardens, meaning that you would not have to wheel any bed more than 20 metres before reaching a green respite.
Children live, learn and heal through play, and the hospital is designed to integrate play in the treatment of the children. This helps to keep the children engaged and at the same time lay the ground for future treatment.
‘Our ambition is to create a hospital that has a home-like and informal atmosphere, where patients and their families will have a safe trip with logical connections and playful spaces,’ says Stig Vesterager Gothelf, the partner at 3XN with responsibility for design.
BørneRiget is one of many planned hospital building projects to be carried out over the coming years. Many of them also focus on creating recreational spaces that are more friendly to the patient than we’ve seen before. For example, read about ‘the New Hospital in West’ that is designed to be both pleasing to the eye and welcoming, or the way that architects have worked to make hospitals feel more like home.
The new children’s hospital in Copenhagen is expected to be fully operational in 2024 and, on a normal day, will house 1200 employees and 900 patients.