Design body calls designs for 950-bed hospital bulky and confusing

CABE has criticised the proposed designs for the largest public building project in the country, the Royal London Hospital project in Whitechapel.

The 905-bed inner city hospital is being designed by architect HOK for contractor Skanska, after the team beat off a consortium from Bouygues last year.

CABE’s design review panel, which has considered the scheme on three occasions, criticised the project on four key points.

  • The site is constrained by neighbouring buildings and thoroughfares, which have resulted in a cramped and awkwardly shaped redevelopment area
  • The form and massing of the new hospital will be high and bulky in order to house all of the uses that have been assigned to the site
  • The clarity of planning and circulation of the new proposals is seriously flawed as the designers have struggled to translate a diagram of clinical adjacencies into a building that will fit the site
  • Navigation around the buildings is likely to be confusing and lack the patient-friendly qualities now proven to help people get better faster.

A spokesman for the Design Review said: “A hospital of this size and prominence ought to be an exemplar of the public sector’s commitment to high design standards through the Better Public Buildings programme. It should be a plausible candidate for the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award. We think that this design fails to reach that standard.’

CABE interim chairman Paul Finch blamed problems with the procurement of the building.

He said: “There are major lessons we have to learn from the way the Royal London has been procured. It’s commonplace to talk about getting the brief clear at the start of the process but the design of this hospital is a testament to how difficult that can be.”