NHS patients feel the benefit of newly-upgraded ‘city oasis’

Refurbishments at Royal Foundation of St Katharine completed just in time for COVID-19 pandemic

The revamp of the Royal Foundation of St Katherine respite care facility was completed just prior to the COVID-19 lockdown

NHS patients have been feeling the benefits of a newly-upgraded ‘city oasis’ during the coronavirus outbreak after refurbishment work at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine was completed shortly before lockdown.

Patients discharged from Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals who are not yet ready to go home, have been receiving respite care at the newly-revamped East London retreat after the site, which was originally a hospital, made an unexpected return to its roots during the pandemic.

Communal reception, lounge and conservatory areas were transformed by IAD Company, using artisan refurbishment methods in keeping with the grade II-listed site’s historic significance, just before the UK went into lockdown.

Since then the retreat and conference centre has been operating under COVID-19 controlled standards to provide patient respite facilities and to act as an operations centre for a local community volunteer network.

Given what has transpired across the UK, and the world, since we completed the project; this could not have been a more-appropriate brief

Rebecca Lewis-Chapman, director at IAD Company, said: “Our task was to create a space which promoted that same sense of peace throughout the retreat centre including The Chapel.

“Given what has transpired across the UK, and the world, since we completed the project; this could not have been a more-appropriate brief.

“It is wonderful to think that our work in transforming the interior at St Katharine’s has played such an immediate and crucial role in supporting those who come to the centre for respite and recuperation, and it feels serendipitous somehow to have completed the project just in time.”

Founded in 1147 by Queen Matilda, the foundation has served as a church, hospital and community centre in its time, passing through successive royal patrons during its 873-year history.

The interiors, designed by IAD Company, play a crucial role in supporting patients who come for respite and recuperation

Today St Katharine’s is a church-led conference centre and residential retreat.

Tasked with creating interior spaces befitting its modern-day status as an all-round centre for wellbeing, the IAD Company drew on traditional methods including re-upholstering existing furniture, subscribing to the ‘circular economy’ ethos of old in the process.

Jonathan Byrne, operations director at St Katharine’s, said: “IAD Company supported our charity’s ethos of refurbishing and re-using furniture to be as sustainable as possible, plus took care and time to understand the complex and multi-use of the space by providing effective design solutions.

It is wonderful to think that our work in transforming the interior at St Katharine’s has played such an immediate and crucial role in supporting those who come to the centre for respite and recuperation

“The design enhances customer enjoyment of the areas and also supports our need to manage groups of people, and easily vary how each area is used.”

IAD Company undertook a complete interior renovation at the main site to complement this, designing around prominent pieces of artwork and interweaving site history and stories from individuals significant to the retreat over the centuries into to finished design.

Lewis-Chapman said: “This was anything but a straight-forward refurbishment project, owing to the foundation’s historic links with the royal family as well as its modern-day reputation as a space which ultimately supports city residents to nourish their souls.

“We subsequently created areas which provide optional isolation for contemplation as well as more-collaborative spaces for counselling and conversations with groups of up to six people.”

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