A new health centre, designed by architect Bill Greensmith, is part of a major redevelopment programme at Imperial College, London. The centre occupies a redundant conference facility at the eastern end of a Grade II-listed students' residential building, designed by Sheppard in the 1960s (before the practice became Sheppard Robson). The conference facility occupied the bottom three levels of the eleven-storey rectangular 1960s block which overlooks college gardens and slopes down to a mews at the rear. The health centre was formerly housed in cramped conditions in a nearby Regency house; its new premises are airy and efficient and provide room for future expansion.
Greensmith admires Sheppard's design, with its strong vocabulary of ribbed timber-framed glazing, 'It has a Sixties feel about it which is quite admirable,' he says. English Heritage stipulated that no changes could be made to the facade, therefore the main entrance is through a simple glazed screen at the corner of the block, while an entrance to an old loading bay at the back of the building has been glazed in and now serves as the entrance to the dental surgery in the basement - greatly improving the general appearance of the mews.
The interior of the building has been radically altered and divided into five different levels to accommodate the dental surgery, an occupational health centre, administration offices and staff facilities.
For Greensmith the chief design problem was the constant conflict between light and privacy. In general, levels are arranged with offices and treatment rooms stacked centrally and public areas arranged peripherally. A long, narrow rooflight, carved out of the roof over the waiting room in the occupational health department, where it connects to the main residential block at ground level, takes light into these central administration areas; glazed or partly glazed partitions help to brighten individual rooms on the lower levels, without breaching privacy. A wheelchair ramp divides public and private spaces and connects the main entrance level with the lower ground floor - a light-filled, double-height space containing nursing and treatment rooms, illuminated by full-height glazing which has been decorated by stained-glass artist Robina Taplin.
Existing concrete and teak staircases have been retained. A semi-circular stairway, once boxed in, has been reopened and gives the staff access to a common room and roof terrace (level five). Greensmith has added an external copper-clad stair lobby on the roof and a steel-framed glazed staff pavilion with magnificent views over Kensington.
ARCHITECT Bill Greensmith
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Michael Bradbrook Consultants
QUANTITY SURVEYOR W C Inman and Partners
MAIN CONTRACTOR Wallis
COST £1.8 million
Photos by Morley von Sternberg