Cambridge Children’s Hospital

Cambridge Children’s Hospital

Cambridge Children’s Hospital shapes a whole new way of thinking about paediatric care and research – one that focuses the entire care environment around the children and their families, rather than their illnesses. Designed in partnership with Hawkins\Brown and Ramboll, the typology supports a new model of care for physical and mental health, making this the first purpose-built facility of its kind in the world – set within a zero carbon architectural vision.

An integrated care environment

Cambridge Children’s Hospital is the first children’s hospital in the UK to integrate physical and mental healthcare, bringing young people, their families, clinicians and researchers into the same space to foster collaboration and innovation within the emerging Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC), the centre of Europe’s leading life sciences cluster. 

The spatial organisation supports a new model of integration, where the hospital’s multiple departments are organised to share resources, create greater operational efficiency and encourage collaboration to form a knowledge exchange between clinicians, and foster empathy between patients. This integration is most obvious at the ward levels, where mental and physical health units are co-located on each level to bring together patients of similar ages and establish correlations between mental and physical health conditions. 

Clinically, this integration brings team members together to create an efficiency of space and service, consolidating hospital staff who are currently dispersed across several sites. More importantly, this provides opportunities to exchange novel insight and knowledge around the care of young people.

Client: Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, University of Cambridge
Design Team Lead Consultant/ Project Manager: Turner & Townsend
Location: Cambridge, UK
Status: Planning approval March 2022
Area: 34,700 sqm, No. of beds: 187
Accommodation: Paediatric physical and mental health, oncology and BMT, imaging and diagnostics, critical care, research, ancillary functions
Visuals: Hawkins\Brown Architects, White Arkitekter

This new model is the first of its kind in the world and aims to treat the whole child, not just their underlying symptoms, by taking into account the mental health implications of long-term hospital stays and the physical health complications faced by patients with mental health conditions.

Design with empathy

Through our extensive user engagement with clinicians, parents and children of all ages, etc., we learned the importance of empathy – that children seeing other children with conditions different to their own helps to promote empathy, which in turn can improve their own recovery time. Additionally, we learned that a connection to the surrounding context and landscape was key for recovery for long-stay patients – that a view of the horizon offered hope and a sense of place.

To create a space that fosters empathy, the mental and physical health wards are organised around large central lightwells and outdoor courtyards, bringing daylight and spaces for play and socialisation to all levels of the building, as well as views between the two wards. By locating the private single-occupancy rooms to the upper levels of the hospital and wrapping them around the exterior of the building, all patients are able to enjoy views out to the surrounding landscape and broader campus, supporting healing and recovery.

Cambridge Children’s Hospital enables a radical change in the model of care for children and young people, and we have worked hard to shape this vision to form a new healthcare typology. It is the first purpose-built facility of its kind in the world, and a role model for a future generation of hospitals.
Cristiana Caira, Partner & Project Director, White Arkitekter

Healing landscapes

Our evidence-based practice investigates the impact of the design and access of outdoors spaces on healthcare outcomes. Working alongside clinicians, this research has revealed that access to quality outdoor space has proven to reduce patient stays and improve wellbeing for patient, parent, and staff.

To provide access to outdoor spaces to all users, and throughout the year, a series of outdoor biophilic spaces are provided across all levels of the building. A large outdoor courtyard serves as the hospital’s playful heart, activating the ground floor and providing views across the space from winter gardens above. Large north facing terraces line the mental health wards, with additional internal courtyards distributed across the mental and physical health wards.  

Working together with ecologists and engineers, a range of endemic tree and plant species were selected to build climate resiliency and provide a natural habitat for birds and bugs. Purpose-built habitats for house martins and other endangered bird species have specifically been provided.

The team from White Arkitekter, Hawkins\Brown, and MJ Medical consulted with young people, their families, and staff to ensure the design of the hospital was inspired by them. From the layouts to the artwork, their insights will ensure we deliver a whole healthcare environment – not just for young people, but for all generations.
Clinton Green, Design Team Project Director, Turner & Townsend

A life-cycle approach

Net zero carbon and high environmental sustainability were the project’s guiding principles. A whole life carbon approach was adopted, taking into account building-related emissions over the entire life of the project. Upfront, embodied carbon was limited through the optimisation of the building’s structural grid to limit the volume of material use, while also ensuring the core would be adaptable to future change.

The building’s envelope is similarly optimised to reduce embodied carbon, while also formed to provide shading for the building’s many windows to reduce operational loads. The three large voids central to the hospital’s deep plan draw light and air into all parts of the building, reducing the building’s lighting demands and improving the wellbeing of all over the life of the hospital.

Cambridge Children’s Hospital was designed by White Arkitekter in collaboration with Hawkins\Brown, alongside MJ Medical and Ramboll UK.

Contact & Team

Cristiana Caira

Cristiana Caira

Key account manager

+46 703 15 86 77

Lienelle Geldenhuys


Jake Ford

Landscape Architecture

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