Bristolians asked to give opinions on designs for the BRI
INTERNATIONALLY-renowned artists and architects have come up with dramatic designs to overhaul the front of one of Bristol's ugliest buildings.
Designs for the transformation of the Bristol Royal Infirmary have come from as far afield as New York, Stockholm and Madrid.
They range from the use of coloured panels, the creation of large window boxes, glass panes and the addition of fins to create the impression of rippling water.
Now Bristolians are being asked to give their opinion on the six designs that are being considered by the hospital trust.
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University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust has decided to overhaul the facade of the Upper Maudlin Street building as part of its £80 million redevelopment of the hospital. A new ward block is being built behind the hospital and a helipad and new entrance added.
Structural work on the facade was also necessary, including the replacement of all of the current windows, and the trust has used the opportunity to turn the front into a work of art to make the hospital more appealing to patients, visitors and the rest of the city.
It is using £2.2 million from the BRI redevelopment budget to transform the front of the Queen's Building and hopes the money will cover the extra design elements.
Trust director of strategic development Deborah Lee said that if the available funds do not cover the chosen design, the trust will try to obtain grants from arts bodies.
She said: "When I first came on board to lead the project I was personally concerned about whether taxpayers would think it was an appropriate use of money to be dressing the building.
"When I understood just what we had to do to the facade to make it safe long-term, in terms of windows and efficiencies of the building, it became apparent that for relatively little additional cost we could start improving the appearance."
Ms Lee said that when she discussed the appearance of the building with patients and visitors they told her it gave the impression that the hospital was dirty.
"They felt that perhaps the hospital just wasn't clean," she said.
"We pride ourselves on being state-of-the-art with leading-edge technology and practice but anyone who doesn't know us, a new patient perhaps, connects the place with the old-fashioned building and feels it is possibly not pushing the boundaries."
Ms Lee said that having decided to do something "more exciting" it felt important to engage staff and the public in the project, which will make the building look more attractive to those who drive past it, as well as those who are treated inside.
UHBristol chief executive Robert Woolley said: "I am really excited to have got international designers of this calibre giving us their ideas for changing the look of the BRI. I hope members of the public and our staff will tell us what they think of the different designs.
"We have long recognised that the appearance of BRI is not one that reflects the quality of care we give, and the redevelopment project presents the opportunity to create a more positive first impression, whether people are coming to the hospital or travelling through Bristol. We are looking for innovative designs for a hospital frontage that is welcoming for patients and visitors, reflects the excellent care that is delivered inside and which Bristolians can truly be proud of."
The selected artists or architects will work with CODA Architects, lead designers for the redevelopment.
Craig Bennett, for CODA Architects, said: "The challenge for the appointed artist or architect will be to explore how the existing design could be taken to the next level aesthetically, while meeting all the technical, environmental and maintenance considerations.
"It is a really exciting project."
Views from the public will be used to draw up a final shortlist of no more than three designs, which will then be expanded upon to establish cost and other factors before a final decision is made by the UHBristol board in July.
A public exhibition of the designs is being held tomorrow in lecture theatre 1 at UHBristol's Education and Research Centre, Upper Maudlin Street, from 10am until 7pm.
DANIEL BUREN - The Great Facade
FRENCH artist Daniel Buren has come up with a bright design which could be created using coloured awnings, blind shutters or glass. He said his aim was to “give a large visibility, a coloured vivifying vibration and if possible a movable aspect of the full work, playing with light, colour and transparency”.
LUKE JERRAM - Flow
BRISTOL-based artist Luke Jerram has worked with design firm Arup to create a facade inspired by rippling water in the city’s docks. The design from the artist behind the Play Me pianos which were set up in cities from Bristol to Brazil, features curving metal fins to create waves. They are combined with tiles of different sizes, reflecting the different-sized windows of the current BRI facade, in colours similar to the brick-work of the neighbouring children’s hospital.
NIETO SOBEJANO - Vell
MADRID architects Nieto Sobejano have taken the original Queen’s Building facade’s “vertical rhythm” as a starting point for their design.
They see the design as “not only defining the hospital’s new image but as an expression of the city”.
The design involves re-cladding the building and also creating a small open garden to “redefine the public realm” and provide a new sense of a welcoming and non-threatening environment, bringing a new profile to the streetscape, embodying the engagement between UHBristol, the city and local residents. They say it recognises the role of architecture in the definition of public space.
THAM AND VIDEGARD - Vertical Garden
STOCKHOLM architects Tham and Videgard believe their design will “offer a new experience” which they call a vertical garden. They propose creating glass rooms like large window boxes with greenery on their roofs to “shape a new character that engages better with people passing by”, adding it “should be a building with a strong identity of its own that can establish itself as a landmark”.
ANTONI MALINOWSKI Colour Clouds
LONDON-based artist Antoni Malinowski found the rhythm of the Queen’s Building’s concrete fins the most interesting aspect of the existing facade and felt it could be enhanced by using coloured panels. His design keeps the best aspects of the current facade, repairing and cleaning concrete and replacing the decayed panels with coloured glass. The Warsaw-born artist used similar panels in the Ropemaker Place building in London. His aim is to use colours found in the natural world.
SO-IL Light and Air
NEW YORK design office SO-IL has worked on projects in China, Greece and the Netherlands.
Its submission for the BRI, Light and Air, centres on creating an airy translucent “light-filled cocoon” for the Queen’s Building. The firm proposes stretching an economical weather-barrier over the existing panels on the outside of the building with a membrane in front of it to create a new facade before the windows are replaced. They say it will create an “innovative multi-layered system of light and air”.