Antrim A&E

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust recently instigated a programme of improvements to its facilities that included a major review of the amenity value of the external areas, access and general open spaces aside the emergency department at Antrim Area Hospital. This was partially stimulated by the Emergency Department extending over time and its consequent layout not facilitating effective flow of patients, staff or visitors.

Todd Architects, who designed the building, appointed Park Hood as landscape architects to design and oversee the
contract management of the external works package. The key objective was to provide an easily readable landscape clearly signposting main access arrival areas for pedestrian or vehicle and promote the best possible experience for patients and staff. The designs had to also take into account cost-effectiveness, longevity of materials, environmental issues, aesthetics and future maintenance and management of these areas. The solution was largely to opt for a predominantly hard landscape including resin bond surfaces, granite, natural and man-made stone paving softened by peripheral shrub and tree planting providing a very easy landscape to maintain and keep clear or clean. The granite and natural paving gives a surfacing treatment that is robust in terms of life-cycle insofar that it is able to withstand the likely footfall and use for decades as well as being produced from a company where matching replacement paving (due to any unforeseen works) are readily available. The pedestrian link between the car park and the main entrance is constructed in a distinct paving, clearly different to the neighbouring areas and aligned with matching lighting to assist in wayfinding.

The contemporary design reflects the architecture of the main building with waved paving pattern, steel bike shelters, light columns and bespoke concrete seats providing a strong balance in terms of appearance, form and style that collectively contribute to a distinct sense of place.

The designs for the two courtyards have very striking characteristics in terms of use of paving colour and hard
landscape forms that merge into shrub and groundcover areas. The objective for these areas was to provide visually stimulating and interesting spaces and places for staff, visitors or patients to sit outside in sheltered landscape areas. The design for one is based on the composition of bacteria when under a microscope while the other represents an eye with the intricacies of both picked out in resin bond coloured paving. This led to a slight problem as such paving needs temperatures to be well above freezing to lay and the program for this work coincided with the coldest March and April in decades but it was quickly addressed once this spell subsided.

Amenity lawn areas divided and protected by formal hedges provide a softening of the treatment once away from the
main entrances as well as providing an aesthetic setting for the main Emergency Department. These extend around the car parking areas with the combination of hedges and lawn effectively breaking up this functional area to ensure it is not dominated by the black-top surface when viewed from the building or from arrival areas.

The resulting Emergency Department has an excellent landscape setting directly linked and integrated to its core building to allow ease of interpretation between both areas and elements. In such an area, this is the key achievement of this project but it has also managed to provide an uplifting and aesthetic landscape en route.