Architect wins top prize for reimagining hospital design

£250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize 2021 awarded to Ab Rogers Design for ‘Living Systems’

The Wolfson Economics Prize-winning Living Systems design envisions a new approach, with smaller modular hospitals with nature and nurture at their heart

A new green approach to hospital design which takes an innovative, multi-sensory approach, has been singled out as the winner of the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize for 2021.

Announced yesterday as this year’s recipient, the Living Systems Hospital considers the smell and sound of the space inspired by ‘the adaptive qualities of living systems found in nature’.

Submitted by Ab Rogers Design; it includes an inhouse marketplace of local produce and a rooftop urban farm, as well as a staff bar, ‘pocket gardens’ between wards, and wards manned by ‘hosts’ whose job it is to look after patients and their visitors.

It also envisions hospital buildings becoming a ‘third carer’ alongside medical staff and a patient’s family and friends, and sets out a vision for smaller facilities which could be built across England and sit within the community as centres of wellness as well as cure.

The smaller, 200-bed sites would be constructed out of a prefabricated, modular design of 12 storeys, with an internal shell of cross-laminated timber so that wards can be easily partitioned into isolation rooms, for example, in response to infectious disease outbreaks.

A central open area on the ground floor – termed the podium – would incorporate a thriving market and be accessible and used by the entire community.

The winning entry from Ab Rogers Design is a powerful and compelling proposition where the hospital building itself becomes an intrinsic element of patient care: nurturing people instead of simply housing them

The plan would also redesign staff facilities, including common areas in order to improve working conditions and increase staff retention across the NHS.

And the design features a rooftop area reserved for hospital staff and volunteers which would include offices, meeting rooms, and congregation areas, as well as a bar and canteen.

A series of raised beds would convert the remaining rooftop area into an allotment for growing fresh produce.

These facilities could be used by staff and patients and would inform a programme of education within the community on diet and lifestyle.

Other thoughtful considerations include locating the bulk of patient rooms and wards on the south side of the building to maximise levels of natural daylight, with greenery and views accessible from every bed.

The winning entry was one of five shortlisted by judges earlier in the summer.

This year, all entrants were asked: How would you design and plan new hospitals to radically improve patient experiences, clinical outcomes, staff wellbeing, and integration with wider health and social care?

The Wolfson Economics Prize – second only to the Nobel Prize in monetary terms – is evidence of a new focus on the long-term improvement in hospital provision in Britain and globally.

Our vision for the hospital of the future is a celebration of health; it nurtures body and mind and cares for the sick, the well, and everyone in between

In addition to improving the care pathway, the proposals reimagine hospital design and style, including how these vital facilities integrate with their communities.

Announcing Living Systems as the winner, Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, founder of the prize and chief executive of Next, said: “This year’s prize has generated important new thinking on how to plan and design hospitals.

“I am thrilled by the quality of the proposals we received, there are so many powerful ideas.

A central open area on the ground floor – termed the podium – would incorporate a thriving market and be accessible and used by the entire community

“Between them they have the potential to radically improve medical outcomes while creating spaces that are a pleasure to work, recover in, and visit.

“The winning entry from Ab Rogers Design is a powerful and compelling proposition where the hospital building itself becomes an intrinsic element of patient care: nurturing people instead of simply housing them.”

Lord Kakkar, chairman of the Judging Panel and chairman of the King’s Fund health think tank, added: “While the judges were deeply impressed by the calibre of thinking behind each of the finalist proposals, Living Systems stood out.

“Good hospital care is about teamwork and the submission by Ab Rogers is a visionary proposal to make the hospital itself part of that clinical team, with the building aiding healing and recovery.

“The result is a thoughtful, consultative design which recognises the needs of human beings in medical environments – whether they are patients, visitors, or staff.”

The winning team now plans to develop a research unit to help develop its ideas further in the hope of seeing them implemented across hospitals in England.

Rogers said: “We are thrilled to have won the Wolfson Economics Prize.

“Our proposal is the result of the collective intelligence of an extraordinary team of hospital workers, patients and thinkers, all coming together to create a humanist hospitals and we now look forward to developing this into a real-life hospital.

The judges said the entry stood out as a 'visionary proposal' to make hospitals themselves part of the clinical team

“Our vision for the hospital of the future is a celebration of health; it nurtures body and mind and cares for the sick, the well, and everyone in between.

“Inspired by the adaptive qualities of Living Systems, it is a connected and forward-looking institution that grows and changes in response to its environment and the needs of its users.

Hospitals are at the centre of people’s communities, helping to save lives and keep people healthy, and it is vital they are designed to be fit for the future

The four runners-up, which included proposals to base hospital design on neuroscience and the symmetry found in nature, redesign hospitals into starfish shaped pods to modernise hospital activity, reimagine the emergency department, and relocate acute and non-acute health facilities to town centres, will receive £10,000 each.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, said: “Hospitals are at the centre of people’s communities, helping to save lives and keep people healthy, and it is vital they are designed to be fit for the future.

“We welcome innovative ideas and I congratulate everyone who has taken part in this year’s prize.

“The 40 new hospitals we have committed to build over the next decade will provide state-of-the art facilities for staff and patients, prioritising the latest digital technologies, sustainability, and modern methods of construction.

“This is how we will deliver world-class facilities for our NHS as well as value for money for the taxpayer, as part of the biggest hospital building programme in a generation.”

Companies