But why is it the most important place that has been built in the last 19 years?
For me, Alder Hey is special. As a town planner I was privileged to be involved in securing the final details of the planning permission. As a parent with a sick child I have been a user. But whether you are a visitor, patient or member of staff, when you arrive at Alder Hey, you immediately feel special.
As you approach the building, the green fingers, sweeping down into the park, change with the seasons. You cannot deny the building makes a statement. The statement it makes is that if you are coming to Alder Hey, you deserve the best experience.
On arrival, the atrium provides a large, bright, space where the staff welcome patients and visitors with warmth. The atrium is the hub of the building, missing from the old hospital, providing a place to sit and enjoy the daylight or shelter from the rain, with views out of every window on to open spaces and the park. It provides a fun and intimate space for all, reinforcing the sense of community.
Working alongside the architects BDP I was overwhelmed at the emphasis on honouring the children’s input. More than a thousand children took part in the consultation and the architects did not just respect but valued this input, which underpinned the core design principles.
The old Alder Hey was always next door to the park, but it was hidden behind a sea of cars and high walls. Patients and their families felt disconnected and separated from the park and indeed the world beyond.
The new Alder Hey isn’t just next door but is a part of the park. Every ward overlooks the park, with an indoor-outdoor area, where even the sickest of children can be wheeled out in their beds to enjoy the air and the space, to escape, even if just for a moment. Siblings, often spending long days (weeks/months) on the ward, make great use of these spaces, meeting others and having the space to be kids. This is great design.
It is an incredible building, that connects with everyone who uses it in a very special way. That was not an accident, it was designed that way, with the best ideas coming from the children and respected by the client group and design team, and that is why it is my best building of the last 19 years.
As a new decade nears, throughout December Place North West will be publishing views from the property industry on the best buildings completed between 2000 and 2019, highlighting the design and development successes of the past 20 years.