New London Architecture

Aye for an eye - Oriel project hailed as ‘beacon’ of ‘world leading’ eyecare

Friday 09 July 2021

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

 
Health Minister Edward Argar has hailed the Oriel eye centre – given the green light by Camden Council last week – as a project that will ‘enable London to deliver world-leading patient care and scientific research under the same roof as part of the biggest hospital infrastructure programme in a generation, to build back better’. 
 
Camden Council last week made a resolution to grant planning permission for the Oriel project a new exemplar facility that will bring patient-centred eye care, cutting-edge research and education all under one roof on the St Pancras Hospital site in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter. 
 
Designed by an AECOM-led team, with Penoyre & Prasad as lead architects and White Arkitekter responsible for interiors and external landscape, the project is a joint initiative between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Moorfields), UCL Institute of Ophthalmology (IoO) and Moorfields Eye Charity.
 
Following the planning committee last week and subject to approval by the GLAand conditions being met, Moorfields and the UCL IoO will be able to relocate from its current buildings on City Road, Islington, to the St Pancras Hospital site, in Camden.
 
The partners have been working on together since 2013, with ongoing engagement on the new centre via a series of events taking place throughout the summer to involve staff, patients and partner organisations in the design of the building’s interior. 
 
Penoyre & Prasad’s design reflects the collaborative nature of the Oriel partnership. At the heart of the building is an atrium – described as a new public room for the city and a place of integration between the multiple elements within the facility. Wrapping around this atrium are two enveloping wings containing all the departments that make up Oriel. Two entrances lead into the atrium, with finishes, landscaping and a glazed roof reinforcing a sense of connection to the outside world and the public realm.
 
Rising up through the centre of the atrium is a tower-like structure containing the main public circulation and access to the different departments. Aptly named the oriel, this tower is the spatial embodiment of the partnership’s mission. As discovery is accelerated by highly collaborative and convergent teams, these levels and bridges provide informal waiting, meeting, workspaces and incidental ‘water cooler’ moments between the multiple building users, as well as the building’s central vertical circulation.
 
Designed as an ‘adaptive building’, Oriel is ‘a flexible rig to accommodate a diverse range of activities that can flex and change over time’. This approach, the backers of the scheme go on, is a critical element to designing future-proof research spaces, especially within the life sciences field.
 
The design of the building has been centred on the people who use and visit the building, aiming to create the best possible patient experience.  This has meant addressing the needs of all those with visual impairment and other neurodiverse and physical needs. As such, it has been designed to ensure an inclusive and responsive environment appropriate for all Moorfields’ patients, staff, and visitors. White Arkitekter has developed the interiors and the external landscapes. Colours and materials inspired by natural landscapes, well considered lighting, tempered acoustics and sensitive wayfinding will aim to promote and enhance the health and wellbeing of patients, staff, and visitors alike.  
 
Dale Sinclair, Director of Innovation, AECOM, said Oriel has the potential to set a precedent that will help guide the development of many future buildings in London and beyond. ‘The team has worked collaboratively to reach this important milestone, developing low carbon solutions for this state-of-the-art facility.”
 
Rafael Marks, Penoyre & Prasad added that the building is a ‘radical’ way of combining treatment, research, education seamlessly under one roof ,offering an adaptable blueprint of how we could be designing sustainable environments of healthcare and life sciences. ‘We are excited by the council’s resolution to grant consent which will help the Oriel partnership to move closer to its mission of providing the world’s best quality care for sight and speed-up discoveries for ground-breaking eye treatment.”
Caroline Varnauskas, Lead Architect at White Arkitekter, said the project is set to transform how we provide the best levels of care for patients in the UK by strengthening collaboration between healthcare and academia. ‘Drawing on White’s significant research into healing environments, light and materiality, our evidence-based design supports recovery, while shaping a high-performance workplace for staff. From the beautiful atrium that welcomes all and the abundantly landscaped roof terrace that offers staff sweeping views across London, to the detailing, wayfinding and interiors that enhance the human experience – this is a place that has been designed with care throughout.” 
 
Oriel is part of a wider masterplan for the five-acre St Pancras Hospital site with plans being brought forward separately by King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP) for mixed-use development on the remaining three acres of land.
 
The Treasury, the Department for Health and Social Care and NHS England / NHS Improvement have given the proposals the green light, which means that detailed work on designing the new centre can build momentum.
 
Health Minister Edward Argar said the grant of planning approval is an important next step, and part of the government’s support for the NHS. “We are backing our NHS and will be building a total of 48 hospitals by 2030, backed by an initial £3.7 billion.”
 
David Probert, chief executive of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Collaboration is key to this project and we are looking forward to continuing to work closely with our staff, patients and partners so that we build a new centre that is not only fit-for-purpose, but a beacon of excellence for patient-focused eye care.”
 
Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, said: “World-class research, innovation and education merit a first-rate facility. Our new location in the heart of Camden’s Knowledge Quarter will maximise opportunities for collaborative working and bring us closer to colleagues in other UCL schools and faculties.”
 
“With common eye conditions expected to rise rapidly over the next 15 years, we need to plan for the future. Oriel promises to deliver a more collaborative working environment that will support our translational ‘bench to bedside’ research through the co-development of research and early involvement of clinicians and patients.”
 
Robert Dufton, Chief Executive at Moorfields Eye Charity, said: “It is an extremely exciting time for the partners in developing this new centre which will enable world-leading clinical care, research and education in eye health. Philanthropy is key to helping us make this global centre for advancing eye health a reality.
 
“We are delighted with the support we’ve received to date from donors and look forward to new and continuing conversations with others interested in helping us realising our vision.”
 


David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly


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