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Wed December 01 2021

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Modular hospital design wins Wolfson Prize

5 days A London design studio has won a £250,000 cash prize for coming up with a new idea for how hospitals should be set out.

The Living Systems hospital by Ab Rogers Design (and below)
The Living Systems hospital by Ab Rogers Design (and below)

Ab Rogers Design is the winner of the 2021 Wolfson Economics Prize, which sought to harness new ideas for improving healthcare by better hospital construction and design.

Entrants to this year’s competition were asked: “How would you design and plan new hospitals to radically improve patient experiences, clinical outcomes, staff wellbeing, and integration with wider health and social care?”

The ‘Living Systems’ team, led by Ab Rogers Design, sets out a vision for smaller hospitals which could be built across England and sit within the community as centres of wellness (sickness prevention) as well as cure. The 200-bed sites would be constructed out of a prefabricated, modular design of 12 storeys, with an internal shell of cross-laminated timber so that wards can be easily partitioned into isolation rooms, for example in response to infectious disease outbreaks. A central open area on the ground floor – termed the podium – would incorporate a thriving market and be accessible and used by the entire community. The plan would also redesign staff facilities, including common areas, in order to improve working conditions and increase staff retention across the NHS.

The Living Systems hospital design features a rooftop area reserved for hospital staff and volunteers. This space would include offices, meeting rooms and congregation areas, including a bar and canteen. The bulk of patient rooms and wards would be on the south side of the building to maximise levels of natural daylight, with greenery and views accessible from every bed.

The winning team now plans to develop a research unit to develop these ideas further, in the hope of seeing them implemented across hospitals in England.

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Four runners-up, which included proposals to base hospital design on neuroscience and the symmetry found in nature, redesign hospitals into starfish shaped pods to modernise hospital activity, reimagine the emergency department, and relocate acute and non-acute health facilities to town centres, will receive £10,000 each.

Ab Rogers of Ab Rogers Design said: “Our proposal is the result of the collective intelligence of an extraordinary team of hospital workers, patients and thinkers, all coming together to create a humanist hospital. We now look forward to developing this into a real life hospital.”

Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, founder of the Wolfson Economics Prize and chief executive of the retailer Next, said: “This year’s Wolfson Economics Prize has generated important new thinking on how to plan and design hospitals. I am thrilled by the quality of the proposals we received, there are so many powerful ideas.  Between them they have the potential to radically improve medical outcomes whilst creating spaces that are a pleasure to work, recover in, and visit. The winning entry from Ab Rogers Design is a powerful and compelling proposition where the hospital building itself becomes an intrinsic element of patient care: nurturing people instead of simply housing them.”

Lord Kakkar, chair of the judging panel and chair of the King’s Fund, said: “Whilst the judges were deeply impressed by the calibre of thinking behind each of the finalist proposals, Living Systems stood out. Good hospital care is about teamwork. The submission by Ab Rogers is a visionary proposal to make the hospital itself part of that clinical team, with the building aiding healing and recovery. The result is a thoughtful, consultative design which recognises the needs of human beings in medical environments – whether they are patients, visitors or staff.”

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