New specialist mental health facilities completed at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

  • 11th December 2023

Work has been completed on the construction of specialist new mental health facilities at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

The Catkin Centre and Sunflower House project for Alder Hey NHS Foundation Trust was designed by Cullinan Studio and delivered by 10architect.

Procured through a RIBA competition, the development brings services for children and young adults together in two connected buildings.

By bringing services together under one roof, the trust will be able to achieve better outcomes for children, young people, and their families and deliver improved efficiencies through more-effective ways of working and a more-holistic approach to care.

Roddy Langmuir, practice leader at Cullinan Studio, said: “Research demonstrates that we must re-forge our connection to nature to stimulate healing, particularly for the mind.

The buildings are surrounded by green space, with views onto planters that abut the windows. Image, Paul Raftery

“Our design for The Catkin Centre and Sunflower House embraces this therapeutic principle, with places for refuge and outlook gathered around courtyard gardens to create an environment that is warm and welcoming, with strong connections to natural materials and systems.”

David Powell, the trust’s development director, added: “The children and families who use the new Sunflower and Catkin buildings deserve a fantastic place in which to receive their care and the brilliant staff who provide their services are equally deserving.

“The driving idea behind the whole Alder Hey Health Campus is to combine clinical and design excellence with the patient, family, and staff voice to provide something really special.”

The Catkin Centre will provide a new home for a number of outpatient services including ASD, ADHD, development paediatrics, CAMHS, eating disorders, and crisis care.

It features an engagement space, quiet rooms, consulting rooms, family therapy rooms, an art/music therapy room, offices, and meeting space.

Sunflower House will provide a home-from-home for young people with complex and enduring mental health conditions, comprising a 12-bed inpatient mental health unit for children aged 5-13 with the most challenging mental health conditions.

Speaking about the design approach, Langmuir said: “Traditional hospital buildings tend to be mazes without centres: confusing labyrinths of corridors and identical, boxy rooms that leave patients disorientated and alienated.

The timber ‘cone’ brings daylight into the building, as well as the tactile warmth of a natural material

“We have taken a completely-different approach, with cloistered routes surrounding two courtyard buildings, where clusters of consulting rooms, bedrooms, and day spaces are gathered around a central outdoor garden room offering activities and views, daylight, and fresh air.

“It is an environment that is warm and welcoming, homely, and connected to nature; for a sense of restorative tranquillity.”

The buildings, raised over the car park, drop-off, and central pedestrian access point, are set against a backdrop of stone gabions and sweeping garden terraces.

And external walls are clad in rich red-brown weathering steel panels, complimenting the lush green planting with bay windows that balance connection and privacy by being orientated towards the park.

This protective shell is there to shield vulnerable patients and gives way to an open welcoming interior made of timber.

A robust wooden structure and panel system is revealed and expressed throughout, chosen for its warmth, smell, and natural feel, and for its environmental and wellbeing benefits.

Places to wait, be alone, or be sociable are connected to views of nature and filled with daylight and natural ventilation.

The design approach is underpinned by the need to ensure patient dignity, safety and discretion so along both sides of the new buildings the bedrooms and consulting rooms have projecting bay windows that offer ‘child-sized’ refuge spaces that shield from the outside world and look towards the new park.

Alder Hey will be the first children’s hospital in Europe to be built within a new community park, (concept design by Turkington Martin and Cullinan Studio) – creating a 21st century Children’s Health Campus as a possible blueprint for the future of the NHS.

There are places for service users to spend time alone and reflect

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