Designed to stand out and blend in

Part of the hospital’s exterior is clad in screens that evoke the silhouette of nearby trees. It’s just one of several elements that incorporate nature into the design.

Creating a building that is both functional and beautiful in the heart of Stellenbosch is no easy task. For the design team at Mediclinic Southern Africa, so many elements had to be considered before it could move forward on the design of the Stellenbosch-based group’s newest hospital. 

According to the Hospital’s General Manager, Carol van Zyl, it was as a result of growing demand for care that the current Mediclinic Stellenbosch building, situated near Die Boord, needed to be replaced with a larger, more flexible design. More space, easier access and a number of zoning considerations led the team to the new location in the heart of Stellenbosch, situated on the R44 Strand Road, Brandwacht. The site is bordered by the Brandwacht River and the iconic African pine trees common in the area. At the back, the Hottentots Holland Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to the recently completed building. 

Wood is used promi­nently to bring the outside in.

According to Amy Blaine, the manager of the Architectural Design Team: Infrastructure at Mediclinic Southern Africa, it was this natural setting that allowed the team to get approval from the aesthetics committee in Stellenbosch. “Bringing the outside in has driven much of our overall design strategy for the building,” says Amy. “The outside facade created with aluminium CNC cut-outs now reflects the silhouette of the trees, and wooden panelling inside the main public areas mirrors the mountain landscape backing the property.” The natural palette, comprising white and beige plus Mediclinic’s accent blue, paints a relaxed setting for patients. Leaf-print wallpaper in waiting areas and wooden cut-outs on stairwells all echo the natural landscape. 

The co-location of the Mediclinic Stellenbosch Day Clinic in Brandwacht at the R44 site demanded a second colour palette. For ease of navigation and to ensure a separate identity for the day clinic, the natural tones were accented with greens on the lower level. Unique aspects, like the cubicle design of the day clinic rooms, combined with the need to reduce waiting times between stages of care have blend­ed well to provide a functional but relaxed atmosphere.

Amy points out that the orientation of the building allows most of the patient rooms to face north and south, so that natural light floods in through broad windows that bring the outside landscape in. “Windows are all solar mirror treated, serving a cooling function while also respecting patients’ privacy.”

She continues, “Designing a hospital that is beautiful but retains its functionality is always a challenge. Most often we learn from previous projects, gaining knowledge of how we can introduce improvements as new materials and ideas enter the market. This time we used a polyurethane screed in the service areas such as the kitchen and laundry for better maintenance. No one will notice but over the long term, it is a more practical solution.” 

Other learnings influenced the layout and positioning of staff rest areas to allow for larger spaces for off-stage relaxation. The size of theatres has been enlarged to accommodate larger technology, as well as more space for staff and doctors to move about in the theatre. There are five theatres within the hospital, three in the acute hospital and an additional two theatres in the day clinic. 

The backbone of any hospital are the CSSD (Central Sterile Services Department) and the MEPD (Mediclinic Equipment Procurement Department) teams, which are usually positioned in the belly of the building. At the newly relocated Mediclinic Stellenbosch, these teams have both access to natural sunlight and a view of Table Mountain from inside the hospital.

The interior uses natural tones to create a relaxed setting.

A rectangular building design was chosen to limit the distances from the central nurses’ station in each unit to the patients’ beds. This design allows for the optimum mix of private rooms to two- or four-bed wards. Staff are thus able to maximise patients’ privacy while maintaining accessible and functional flow for care.

Better hidden than other design features are the flush systems supported by non-potable water rather than municipal supply and the white roof designed to maximise cooling, simple aspects of a building that can no longer be ignored in a resource-stressed country such as South Africa. Even the gardens have been planted with a selection of indigenous flora that require little maintenance and watering. 

“The new structure will include 95 patient beds, with the option of expanding to 160 beds. There will be a 24-hour emergency centre as well as supporting services such as radiology, pharmacy and pathology,” explains Carol. “For patients and visitors there will be a coffee shop as well as baby and wound care clinics. The doctors’ consulting rooms will also be located within the hospital. From 1 June 2019, the surgical, medical and emergency disciplines will move over, leaving only the mother and child elements at the current facility. They are scheduled to transfer to the new location on 1 August 2019.”

One element that excited Amy and her team was the unique ‘only Stellenbosch’ elements of the design. “No other hospital will have the mountain landscapes or tree cut-outs. Even our light fittings in public areas were specifically designed in-house,” she says. “Our corporate office, based in this town, has such a strong alignment to the business and we wanted this building to reflect that history.” 

A night-time visual of the hospital alludes to moonlight flowing through trees with the backlit structure standing up tall in the dark Stellenbosch nightscape. It’s definitely not a typical healthcare facility by any stretch of the imagination. 

“We don’t design our buildings to be simply functional,” Amy explains, “We want our patients to feel relaxed, to feel at home and to know that they are in expert hands. Also, that our staff has the best working environment to deliver care while providing an atmosphere that exceeds their patients’ expectations.” And perhaps in a building design that exceeds the requirements of a typical hospital, patients from Stellenbosch will find rest and recovery easier than expected.

 

Etched against a mountain backdrop, the new Mediclinic Stellenbosch is situated at 1 Elsie du Toit Drive on the R44 Strand Road, Brandwacht.