Sunshine HouseEdit profile
The new �8.5 million Sunshine House on St Giles Road provides a new, bright and cheerful environment for the delivery of a range of services for children and young people with special needs and disabilities. Context Initially the Community Health department of South London NHS Trust asked the architect to develop options for new healthcare premises with a limited brief and little intention to build. In 2002 the scheme joined a group of projects to be built under the Local Initiative Finance Trust (LIFT). Winning planning permission and developing the scheme through the highly prescribed NHS Activity Database System took two years, with another 18 months required for negotiations over contracts. At this point there was a great deal of pressure to start on site, and producing information quickly enough whilst maintaining quality became the challenge. The LIFT contract is purposefully quite inflexible - while there was little opportunity for value engineering, there were also few opportunities for refining the design despite conflicts in the contract documentation and changes in the client requirements. Civic Pride and Form Located on a very constrained site, the building sits amongst dark brick mansion blocks of uniform and monolithic scale. Responding to this context, the Centre takes the form of a dark glazed brick block, a simple rectangle in plan and stepped rectangle in elevation, rising from three storeys to six and cantilevering as it meets St Giles� Road to provide a recognisable landmark for the area. The wide variety of services provided required a range of different room types, each of a prescribed and differing size and with complex relationships that produce a naturally irregular internal plan. Resolving the interplay between the complex internal arrangement and the formal urban envelope was the main driver for the design. A simple double-loaded corrdior arrangement allowed rooms to vary in size whilst giving each a window for natural light and ventilation. To create interest and connections between the interior spaces a number of voids were cut into the form, each brightly coloured. At upper levels the voids create private outdoor terraces providing natural daylight and ventilation to rooms deep within the building. These voids are then opened to public view through unglazed openings in the facade and lined in brightly coloured render. The voids cut between the three public lower levels are similarly lined in colour. These, however, are internal spaces allowing views between the floors to help visitors orientate themselves. As public elements their coloured forms are brought out through the brick fa�ade to address the street and welcome visitors by forming external sunshades, sheltered play areas, and the main building entrance. Surface and making The dark brick facade is shown to be only a thin skin and long horizontal window cuts reveal a staccato pattern of mullions which corresponds to the irregular room layout. Brightly coloured elements enliven the upper windows, where bright sky-blue brise soleil spring from within the window cuts. These shades orient their visible surfaces to catch and reflect direct sunlight, preventing overheating and animating the facade. Technically the construction looks deceptively traditional. However, the inner leaf is a solid and continuous reinforced concrete wall. This acts as a massive shear structure to support the building cantilever, provides integral lintels for long horizontal strip windows, and supports a variety of stainless steel bracketry to carry the thin skin brickwork. Plastered internally, the concrete also provides thermal mass, slowing the building�s heating and cooling cycle and helping the rooms within to be warm in winter, cool in summer. As with the activities within, although this appears to be a simple building, much is going on behind the scenes. Conclusion At Sunshine House, the challenge was to create a place of quality and uniqueness to provide a strong and playful backdrop to NHS standardisation. It is a building that is local but distinctive, providing a colourful but urbane solution to a rich and often conflicting set of programme and performance requirements.