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Evelina Children's Hospital, Hopkins' first foray into healthcare design, is part of the development plan for St Thomas' Hospital Campus in Southwark. The architect's response to a brief, which called for 'a real children's hospital, not an adult hospital with cartoons on the walls', was to design a generous loose-fit low-energy building with the emphasis on creating an environment where children feel comfortable and relaxed.

The entrance opens on to an internal street enlivened with waiting areas, cafés and bright red 'rocket lifts' and illuminated by shafts of light from the spectacular four-storey glazed atrium above. Shared play areas are both visible and inviting. Pharmacy and outpatient facilities are housed in the perimeter rooms.

The wards themselves, with 120 beds in total, are linked by colourful, gently winding paths - the brief asked for a 'hospital that doesn't feel like a hospital', devoid of 'long scary corridors'.

Services have been organised in such a way that the normal access ceiling has been replaced by a more intimate child-friendly plaster.

Patients inhabit intimate wards of four or six, arranged so that one nursing station can cover two 'twinned' wards. For visiting parents there is a pull-down bed adjacent to every child's bed, and wards are arranged to take maximum advantage of the generous natural light.

The natural/assisted ventilation system, including opening louvres, prevents the building from 'smelling' like an institution, while high ceilings and large windows create a strong relationship with the outside world.

Mariella Frostrup It's the nicest hospital I've ever seen - I'd fight to get my kids to this hospital if they were ill. It's a brave attempt at reinventing a hideous form - the way it embraces and takes advantage of the greenery outside is exemplary. There is a cheerfulness because of the light. The greenhouse is big and empty but I like the fact you could look down into the school and on to a performance.

Stefan Behnisch I think it's nicely done. They really looked at what makes a good hospital, and tried to avoid the hospital experience. But they went a little bit too much towards the office approach. The building is not very playful in its detailing.

The sustainable approach to energy is very important, so it has many assets.

I'm not sure it's an architectural miracle, but I think that it's well done for this purpose, and it's sensibly done.

Ian Ritchie It's an elegant metamorphosis of an office building. I like the intimate scale of the spaces - the entrance route as playground, the sinuous corridors, and the wards - there is no spatial anonymity anywhere; everywhere has a sense of well-being. It has deinstitutionalised the hospital. The environmental intentions may have come a little unstuck during the long hot July, but there is bravery in the design, the client's ambition and, thank goodness, the PFI virus was kept away through the power of clarity. The glass enclosure facing the archbishop's garden and setting sun does not have the delicacy one would have expected, but music and laughter permeate from those using the space.

Isabel Allen You can see that a lot of time and care has been spent getting the arrangement of the wards absolutely right. It's a very straightforward plan, but it's been manipulated incredibly well. There is a good balance between the need for surveillance and privacy, and it's wonderful for the patients to enjoy so much natural light. The atrium is surprisingly static; the detailing is clunky - well-executed but not elegant. I find the structure of the atrium roof very heavy, so that what should be a liberating, soaring space is actually rather oppressive.

Martha Schwartz I think the concept of the greenhouse is good, it does change a child's vision of being here. It's light, they can play around. This is a great place.

It would have been wonderful if the landscaping on the outside terrace had been brought into the interior under the roof, to create a more interesting and inviting space and help to relieve the 'fishbowl' problem. But the landscape elements have been valued out. It's like doing Trafalgar Square and pouring concrete over it and then wondering why people don't use it.

Mariella Frostrup I love the wards. They make me feel optimistic about the future of hospital buildings. It is a significant paradigm shift - I hope more healthcare providers take it on.

Subcontractors and suppliers

Conservatory-roof glazing Klaus Fischer; roof steelwork/lift, truss and links structures SH Structures; conservatory end/south walls, ward walls, entrance screens and links glazing Cap Aluminium Systems; terracotta cladding Buro Happold Facade Engineering, Archwise Systems, NBK, MPG Facades; ribbon windows Schüco International, Naco (louvre system); in situ and precast concrete MJ Gallagher; concrete substructure Manns Construction; core strip glazing Bespoke Aluminium; metal copings Alumasc Exterior Building Products, Rabco; metal louvres Colt International; link roofs Technics Installations UK; metal cladding Southdown Construction; lifts Liftwise; M&E Services RTT Engineering Services; radiant panels Eauversion; radiant systems UK Beams; lights Targetti Diablo by Modular Lighting, iGuzzini, Wila, Thorn, Whitecroft; metal/ plasterboard ceilings Kent Acoustics; plasterboard walls Astins, Knauf; doors Atlantic Joinery; metalwork SAS International; ooring Freudenberg Architect Hopkins Architects Client Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust Structural engineer Buro Happold Quantity surveyor Davis Langdon Services engineer Hoare Lea & Partners Main contractor MJ Gleeson Contract value: £41.8 million Date of completion: January 2005 Gross internal area: 16,500m

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