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building study - Gareth Hoskins Architects' Sandy Road Clinic is a striking public building punctuating a tenemented street in Glasgow, that provides a new focus and symbol for local healthcare

The tenement-with-ground-floor-shop is the predominant building type in certain parts of Glasgow. That is the case on the section of Dumbarton Road where a new clinic has been built, although things fall apart a little immediately around this site. Initially, the planners were looking for the new clinic to follow the height and building line of tenements, but they came round to share the view of Gareth Hoskins Architects that this rare new public building should instead punctuate the street.

It doesn't abut its neighbour (to the west) and though of similar height, that is not the first impression. It is set back from the road, providing a bit more public space at the front, also using this set-back to resolve changing levels (from the front the clinic appears as three floors, but at the back a lower-ground-level nursery opens onto a garden). As a composition it is predominantly horizontal, a zinc and glass box intersecting one in timber.

These two volumes reflect some of the organisation within. The glass and pre-weathered zinc front of the building is largely entrance and staff areas, with the more intimate consultation and treatment areas in the box behind. This is expressed internally, with the external timber box-front plane continuing inside as timber-clad corridor walls.

Of course space requirements don't fit exactly into two groups like this, and who knows what services the clinic will be delivering in a few years? So the emphasis is on simply flexible rather than specific spaces, formed from stud partitions within a steel frame and composite floors. Today the range of clinic services is wide, including GPs and nurses, dentistry, podiatry (chiropody), diet and old people's mental health. The clinic is also a major base for health workers, such as district nurses and health visitors.

Fronting Dumbarton Road to the north, the new clinic's glazed entrance is at the east end, on the corner with Sandy Road; further down are related health buildings in ageing but cared for buildings. The clinic (plus nursery) itself stands where former nursery buildings were demolished. The openness of the glazed front beckons to the passing public, and for those waiting avoids a feeling of being closedin in an environment that can be stressful. The entrance plan depth and the taper of the plan here do succeed in making the waiting area a distinct space, not just a corridor.

A glazed void opposite the stair runs the full height of the building, adding to legibility. On the first and second floors there is the addition of wrap-around glazing, providing outside contact and helping to avoid the sense of interminable corridors for which the health service is renowned. The public visit the ground and first floors for consultation and treatment. The second floor is for staff, especially outworkers. One major space is set up for hot desking. The other major space should follow suit when IT funding is secured.

The lower-ground-level nursery, for 0-5 year olds, is separated from the clinic. It is built out under a projecting southerly canopy, which provides small sheltered play spaces adjoining the garden and shades the windows. Changes of floor levels are used here by the architect, with the entrance and first (0-2 year old) class base having the lowest floor-to-ceiling height, then increasing as the floor descends by ramps to older children's class bases. The horizontal strips alongside the ramps act as class-base entrances and coat-storage areas.

This nursery sits beneath the boarded southerly wall, with its louvres for shading - windows open inwards for cleaning - and opening ventilation panels. (In fact some windows are not shaded with louvres following a conservative client risk-analysis of emergency escape. ) The timber work (see Working Detail, pages 34-35) inside and out was originally to be oak. In practice it proved impossible to source materials of the right moisture content, and untreated cedar was chosen for the external cladding. This was felt to be too soft for the interior and the tougher iroko was chosen there. Even if the original oak had been specified, differential weathering would soon have made a colour and texture contrast between inside and outside timber, somewhat obscuring the visual continuity of the timber box.

Servicing is simple; the building mostly naturally ventilated, with underfloor heating to the ground floor and nursery, and radiators on floors above. Simplicity has also been the key in planning an essentially cellular building on a modest budget (tender sum £1,350/m 2). It is to the architect's credit that a few deft moves in terms of massing, plan and materials have raised the building into something special, an intervention of quality, becoming a local landmark, symbolising the care the community is being offered.

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