Friday, April 08, 2011

Bispebjerg Hospital -- A place in architecture

As noted in the post above, Copenhagen's Bispebjerg Hospital is a marvelous architectural and landscape achievement. Here is a summary of that history from an article in Dan Medicinhist Arbog, interspersed with some photographs I took today. Thanks again to Dr. Peter Skanning for a marvelous tour. (More photos are posted on Facebook, here.)

The architect Martin Nyrop (1849-1921) who had just completed the monumental and beautiful Copenhagen City Hall along with the engineer AC Karsten (1857-1931) and landscape architect Edvard Glaesel (1858-1915) were entrusted with the task to develop the design of the hospital.... The 6 red 2-story brick pavilions are located around an axis along Bispebjerg hill with southeast facing bedrooms over viewing the lush patient gardens.

These sick rooms all had large double windows at the southeast providing excellent daylight. On the walls are washable frescoes with motifs from nature. Pavilion buildings are flanked by two avenues with linden trees on both sides and connected by crossroads between the buildings.

Underground tunnels link the buildings. On both sides, the two lower pavilions on the same side of the central avenue staircase are linked together by a long covered bridge leading from the first floor of the first building to the ground flour in the next building because of the terrain slope.

My note: The tunnels are not only extensive, but they are beautifully constructed. The masonry is designed in a distinctive pattern, and there is a different mix of light and dark bricks as you proceed through the tunnels. So, if you are familiar with them, you can orient yourself in the hospital by the pattern in the tunnel wall.

This bridge connects the two pavilions with a building with operating theatres so that patients can be transferred indoors between operation theatre and sick room.

My note: The operating theatres face north so they can receive glare-free natural light through their glass ceilings and walls. Medical students viewed the surgeries from a raised gallery just inside the outside windows, seeing the operations through a plate glass separating wall.

Surrounding the sick pavilions administrative building, rheumatic outpatient department, laundry, kitchen and engine house are placed. Between the buildings, avenues and crossroads gardens designed with benches, beautiful flowerbeds and bouquets were established to the leisure of the patients.

The hospital offers a wealth of fine architectural designs and presents itself as a kind of garden village within the city.

Note, for example, this light fixture. The bulb holder and lens are in the shape of an acorn. On the right, designed into the ironwork just below the curved portion, is a portrayal of the three towers of the Copenhagen City Hall. Other designs, many with representations of plant life or symbols of the city, are found throughout the campus.

Finally, we should note how Nyrop borrowed classical architectural forms from earlier eras. He appears to have had a fascination with Roman architecture in particular. You can see one example here where he used Hadrian's villa as a model for one building. And below, you can see where he used the design of Roman baths as the model for the bathing building of his hospital. In one part of the bath building, he also used a specific room from Pompei as the pattern for a bathing room.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful. It appears that we are having to relearn what Nyrop already knew - that the natural surroundings in a hospital, as well as its grounds, can affect the healing process.

And by that I do not mean fountains in the lobby with photos of all the hospital presidents. :)


Unknown said...

As an architect specializing in the design of healthcare facilities I've long recognized the direct relationship between the built environment and health. There continues to be a growing body of evidence that link the built environment to quantifiable improvements in healthcare delivery and outcomes, and practitioners of Evidence Based Design will often incorporate many of the same principles that were prevalent in hospital designs of the late 19th century to enhance healing.

The concepts of maximizing natural light, connections to nature, and access to fresh air and beauty as contributors the healing process are not new or exclusive to the EU. The “Pavilion Plan” designs introduced by Florence Nightingale here in the US in the late 1800's incorporated many of these same design principals. And having had the recent privilege of master planning and designing major projects on the Boston Medical Center campus I learned first-hand of BMC's legacy of innovative design used toward the creation of environments that improve healthcare delivery and promote healing. The original design by Gridley Bryant in 1861 was a wonderful composition of pavilions sitting in a landscaped garden, establishing a sensitive urban relationship with the row houses and parks Boston's South End neighborhood. (Bryant was a notable Boston architect responsible for a number of significant projects in the city, including the old Boston City Hall, the Charles Street Jail and Arlington Street Church). At the time it was deemed one of the finest examples of civic architecture and civic responsibility in the city of Boston, for its mission to provide healthcare to the poor and for its sensitive relationship with its neighborhood

The buildings recently completed on the BMC campus attempt to recapture much of the original spirit of the 1861 plan by restoring the heart of the campus with a central campus green, and through the use of natural light and contextually sensitive massing and materials to reconnect the campus to the surrounding neighborhood

We have much to learn from our European colleagues in terms of running a hospital, but also how the built environment can contribute to better health, reduced energy consumption, and reduced overall costs. Thanks for sharing

Gregory Luongo, AIA

Paul Levy said...

Wow, thank you, Gregory.